Winston-Salem Sells Two Large Venues

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The outstanding magazine Business North Carolina reports in its July issue that “Winston-Salem is getting out of the entertainment business for financial reasons.” Of course, they don’t mean the arts business, which is sometimes viewed as a lesser included category of entertainment. Seems that LJVM Coliseum (the full title of which, rarely used, is Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum – it was named for the Army medic who, in 1967, became the first living black to receive the Medal of Honor since 1898) and Bowman Gray Stadium (best known now for racing – it was named for a former R.J. Reynolds CEO) are basically too small to compete with the mega-venues that have popped up in NC since they were built. The coliseum is being sold to Wake Forest University; the stadium, to Winston-Salem State University (if the NC General Assembly concurs). It would appear that Greensboro, Charlotte, and Triangle venues have drained too much business from Winston-Salem.

Could it happen elsewhere? Greensboro is considering an arts complex (read bus-&-truck entertainment venue) to compete with the DPAC. Raleigh’s bus-&-truck operation is on life support – due to DPAC and (perhaps) long-term slip-shod management. In light of this cut-throat competition, maybe the smartest town in the state is Winston-Salem.

But is bigger always better? And what impact have these super-sized venues on local and regional arts organizations? By the time ad-saturated patrons buy tickets and snacks and more at one of the big bus-&-truck places – and never mind those outrageous online ticket surcharges – is there anything left for local performing arts groups? Is there any trickle-down?

Reader comment is welcome. Let the discussion begin!

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