Parking lot concert acts as trial run for potential Memorial Coliseum shows during pandemic

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Major events could return to the Memorial Coliseum after Friday’s drive-in country concert.

On Friday, country music singer Chris Janson took the stage in the parking lot of the Memorial Coliseum for the venue’s first concert since rockers KISS performed on Valentine’s Day in February. The event looked much different than past shows at the Coliseum thanks to COVID-19 pandemic recommendations, but around 700 cars turned out for the show. Cars had varying amounts of people in them.

Fans watch country music artist Mitchell Tenpenny during the Country Night at the Drive-In at the Memorial Coliseum on Friday, Sept.25, 2020.

“We have a camera system that automatically does temperature checks on our staff,” said Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown. “You’ll notice when you look around you don’t see port-o-potties for tomorrow. It’s because we’re using the conference center restrooms because we can sanitize those restrooms, disinfect with our hydrostatic sprayer.”

The Coliseum brought in food trucks instead of using their onsite concession stands. They had social distance markers set up in the area of the trucks as well as hand sanitizing stations. Social distancing and masks were required when people were outside of their vehicles.

Guests were urged to follow their guidelines because Brown said more shows could be brought in the near future if things went well. This would be a turning point in the year for the venue that is seeing a revenue loss in the millions due to the pandemic.

“We have to date canceled for this year 250 events,” said Brown. “The attendance decrease based on those 250 events as of last Friday is over 625,000 people. Our loss that we’re looking at is somewhere between a low of $2.9 million to a high of $3.5 million.”

The low end of $2.9 million dollars is what is expected if they are able to continue holding parking lot shows. The Coliseum has ideas they are working towards but Brown said it depends on how well the Chris Janson show goes. If all goes smoothly, it could also make Fort Wayne an appealing location for other acts looking to perform during the pandemic.

“Possibly a laser light show, possibly a parking lot comedy event and maybe classic rock but if we’re still dealing with the pandemic next year this could very well be an option of how we start in the spring again so to be able to prove that we can do it and do it well, that puts us a step ahead of a lot of other markets.”

That extra interest would be a benefit to the Coliseum considering this year is the first in its 60-year history that it has had to go to the Allen County Council to request funding support. More shows could potentially allow them to bring back some of the 400 Memorial Coliseum employees still furloughed.

“Some of our stagehands mentioned that they haven’t had any stage work since maybe when they worked the concert back in February,” said Brown. “It’s not a lot of work and there’s not a lot of stagehands on this call but it’s a step in the right direction.”

It is not just the Coliseum feeling the impact as well. Along with the revenue brought into the Coliseum, Brown said they have an economic impact on the are to the tune of $110 million each year so more concerts could help surrounding businesses as well.

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