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Newport vs. Cincinnati: A blow-by-blow of competing music venues

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The battle of the band shells. The rivalry over the river. Whatever you want to call the competition between Newport and Cincinnati’s new music venues, the gloves are coming off.

And this is not exactly a friendly rivalry. Two world-class music venues, a stone’s throw across the river from one another. Here’s how they match up:

Newport’s venue costs about $18 million without the parking garage. Cincinnati’s will be $25 million.

Both venues will have indoor seating and an outdoor concert space. Newport will seat 2,700 inside and 7,000 outside. Cincinnati will seat 4,500 inside and 8,500 outside.

Newport got a slight head start, breaking ground in August on its garage. Cincinnati started about a month later, but Cincinnati estimates it will be done building next summer and the music will start playing in the fall. Newport expects to have its first band play about six months later in March of 2021, and doesn’t believe Cincinnati’s aggressive timetable.

Neither venue has sold naming rights yet, but Newport says it is down to two competing entities. Cincinnati says it will announce its name within the next few weeks.

For Newport, PromoWest, which runs other venues in Columbus, Pittsburgh and the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati, is aligned with AEG, the largest music promoter in the world. For Cincinnati, Music and Event Management Inc (MEMI), which runs Riverbend, PNC Pavilion and Taft, is aligned with Live Nation, the second-largest music promoter in the world.

Both venues plan to book about the same number of acts annually. Both say they will book the top acts in pop, rock and country. And therein lies the rub; when the dust settles, both venues are going to be competing for the same acts, but Newport says it has a competitive advantage.

“AEG is invested. This is their project,” said Tom Banta, managing director of Corporex, the owner of Newport’s music venue. “They’re not just a management company managing the venue. This is their facility. So, I think you’ll find they’re going to book the acts that they book nationally in this facility.”

Cincinnati says it has a competitive advantage.

“We have the ability to have simultaneous concerts: one indoors with 4,500 people, a different concert, different group of different genre, different demographic outside,” said Tom Gabelman, attorney with Frost Brown Todd, representing Cincinnati’s new music venue. “There’s not going to be another one like it in the country.“

Both venues say the fact that they’re going after the same acts will create bidding wars, which could drive up ticket prices for the rest of us. Local 12 will keep you informed with progress on both sides of the river and report on milestones from now until the first bands play.


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