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Arena finishing big year with 137 events, $27 million in ticket sales

Simmons Bank Arena is delivering robust results as one of the world’s best-producing arenas in 2022 as the year draws to a close.

The multipurpose North Little Rock arena achieved record results this year, offering 137 events with more than 315,362 tickets sold at a gross margin of $27.4 million.

That performance gained Simmons international attention, ranking 50th in the world, according to data compiled by Pollstar, a trade publication covering the concert and music industry.

As performers returned to the stage, Simmons Bank Arena capitalized on the renewed activity, which was above the 120 events the facility typically hosts each year. Many countries still had suspended or limited live events with thousands of attendees when bookings were made last year, pushing many musicians and other performers to U.S. arenas like Simmons.

“It’s been an awesome year,” said Michael Marion, general manager of the arena. “We’ve never done anything like this. We were able to book a lot of things because they were all staying here in the U.S.”

For example, the arena hosted 23 comedy and musical performers in 2018 and 2019, pre-pandemic, and held 37 last year. It also has annual bookings such as Monster Truck rallies, the Harlem Globetrotters and Arkansas Razorback basketball games.

George Strait sold the most tickets, more than 17,608, even though others like Elton John sold out the facility. Strait performs in the round, creating more seating area for fans.

Elton John was the first major performer in the arena in 1999 after its opening was delayed by 10 days due to structural issues, which were found the same day the original opening event — an NBA game showcasing the Los Angeles Lakers featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant — was canceled hours before tipoff.

The Pulaski County Multi-Purpose Civic Center Facilities Board has managed the arena since 2004, picking up management duties from a private company that ran the arena when it opened as Alltel Arena.

The name changed first in 2009 when Verizon purchased Alltel Corp. and gained naming rights to the facility. Verizon did not renew the sponsorship contract and Simmons Bank stepped up with a $10.5 million agreement in 2018.

One thing has remained consistent across the name changes — Marion has been general manager from the very first day.

The entertainment arena provides concerts, sporting events and meeting space for the Central Arkansas market.

Usage should return to normal levels in 2023.

“I think things will settle down next year,” Marion says. “I don’t think we’ll see this kind of event load next year.”

ALLIANCE RUBBER RECOGNIZED

Alliance Rubber Co., which manufactures rubber bands in Hot Springs, is one of eight companies cited by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) as one of the nation’s leading exporters.

The woman-owned company has been operating for nearly 100 years and also offers packaging and promotional products for use in the home and workplace. Alliance currently exports to 60 countries.

“EXIM is dedicated to facilitating the exporting success of U.S. small business as they compete globally,” said bank President and Chair Reta Jo Lewis. “The eight exporters recognized this year have contributed greatly to fulfilling EXIM’s mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating U.S. exports. Congratulations to each business!”

U.S. companies, particularly small businesses, use the bank’s financing tools and resources to increase international sales, showcase American-made products, and create and sustain American jobs.

VENTURE CENTER WINNERS

A Cincinnati company that enhances peer-to-peer payment options for banks won the Demo Day award as the latest FIS Fintech Accelerator cohort at the Little Rock Venture Center ended last week.

The accelerator, sponsored by Fidelity National Information Services Inc. of Jacksonville, offers mentoring and training services that allow financial technology companies to grow their businesses and make important connections in the sector.

Demo day featured live presentations by the fintech companies participating in the accelerator to an audience of remote investors, bankers and fintech leaders.

Neural Payments won the Demo Day award for its embedded payments solution that allows banks to send and receive money using multiple options in the market.

Equipifi of Scottsdale, Ariz. won the audience choice award for its buy-now-pay-later service.

“Now in its seventh year, the FIS Fintech Accelerator has successfully helped more than 70 entrepreneurial innovators from across the globe gain access to a network of industry experts,” said Hamza Qadir, managing director of fintech programs for the Venture Center. “Partnerships make this possible. FIS and the state of Arkansas have been vital for ensuring collaboration between our organization, the financial services industry and field experts in order to continue advancing fintech solutions for real-world problems.”

NWA HOT HOUSING MARKET

The Northwest Arkansas housing market of Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers has been touted by a national organization as one of the top real estate markets in the nation to watch in 2023.

The region is projected to be the fourth-best housing market next year by the National Association of Realtors, which is predicting 4.78 million existing-home sales in 2023, down 6.8% from 5.13 million in 2022. The Atlanta metro area was projected to be the top-performing market.

“Half of the country may experience small price gains, while the other half may see slight price declines,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the real-estate organization.

The national median home price will reach $385,800 — an increase of just 0.3% from this year, which was $384,500. Rent prices are predicted to rise 5% in 2023, following a 7% increase in 2022.

Mortgage rates, which climbed above 7% this year fueled by interest-rate increases, should settle down to 5.7%, Yun said.

“The demand for housing continues to outpace supply,” Yun said. “The economic conditions in place in the top 10 U.S. markets, all of which are located in the South, provide the support for home prices to climb by at least 5% in 2023.”

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at [email protected] or at 501-378-3567.


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