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Elton John, ZZ Top: 2 major concerts will test Youngstown business district

downtown youngstown

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Elton John, ZZ Top shows set for March 22



March 22 is shaping up to be the busiest Tuesday night in downtown Youngstown in many years.

That’s because two major concerts by classic-rock giants are set for that night – Elton John at Covelli Centre and ZZ Top at Stambaugh Auditorium.

The bars and restaurants in the downtown area always hum with activity before a big concert at either venue, and will be busier than most because of Elton John’s concert, which is already a virtual sellout of 7,000 seats.

Tickets behind the stage are being sold for the show, adding more than 1,000 seats to the usual concert capacity.

Tickets go on sale Friday for ZZ Top at Stambaugh, which holds about 2,500. Prices range from $39 to $99 (plus applicable fees).

Michael McGiffin, director of downtown events, is looking forward to the night and sees it as a test.

“The really cool thing is that it’s going to enable us to see if Youngstown can support more than it has in the past,” said McGiffin.

“Larger cities support multiple events on the same night, but this will be a true test for us, not only in terms of ticket sales, but for the business district. Can our restaurants host both events? Will parking and our infrastructure and police be able to handle it? It will be a good experience.”

McGiffin had just been made aware of the multiple events on one night, but said he will develop a plan that could include a pre- and post-show marketing campaign that will promote downtown as the place to be.

He also plans to reach out through the Mahoning County Convention & Visitors Bureau to market the night in other cities.

“There’s a lot of work to be done on the back end to facilitate a good time for everyone, and public safety,” he said.

McGiffin pointed out that downtown will face another onslaught of people the week before the Elton John-ZZ Top doubleheader.

Country music star Carrie Underwood will be at Covelli Centre on March 17, which is also St. Patrick’s Day – a big party night in the city.

“March is going to be heavy,” said McGiffin.

The largest question regarding March 22 will be if sales of ZZ Top tickets will be slow; in other words, is the classic-rock fanbase tapped out because of the Elton John show?

Sunrise Entertainment, promoter of the ZZ Top concert, doesn’t think so because the overlap between fan bases isn’t that strong.

“We believe the crowds are different enough to not compete with Elton John,” said Alyssa Connelly, event coordinator for Warren-based Sunrise, which is owned by Warren-area residents Ken Haidaris and Marty Cohen.

“Also, they are not playing anywhere else around here.”

ZZ Top fans from throughout the tri-state area, including the Cleveland and Pittsburgh markets, will have to come to Youngstown to see the band on this tour, she pointed out.

Sunrise Entertainment usually books concerts and theatrical productions at Packard, but not always.

The ZZ Top show was originally scheduled for a different date and at Packard Music Hall in Warren, said Eric Ryan, whose JAC Management Corp. operates both Covelli and Packard.

“The show was supposed to be at Packard but unfortunately they moved the date to the 22nd,” said Ryan, who is also the director of Covelli Centre.

“We have an event that night at Packard that we couldn’t move.”

“In the Mood,” a 1940s musical revue, had long been scheduled for March 22 at Packard.

Although it’s rare that there are two larger concerts in Youngstown on the same night, it has happened before, albeit to a lesser extent – and it involved ZZ Top.

On May 18, 2007, the blues-rock trio from Texas was at Chevrolet Centre (as Covelli was known then), while rock band Papa Roach was at Club Gossip (now Rodeo Music Hall) in Austintown. Both shows were near capacity.