Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' house still into music

Big acts coming to MTS Centre

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Music lovers worried that the arrival of the NHL in Winnipeg might affect the number of big-name concerts coming through town need not fear -- Kevin Donnelly isn't taking any extended vacations.

The senior vice-president and general manager at True North Sports & Entertainment hasn't let the upcoming Winnipeg Jets training camp and much-anticipated home opener affect his booking habits. During a five-week span starting Sept. 1, he's bringing in rock acts Kings of Leon, Maroon 5, Bachman & Turner and Pearl Jam, country star Keith Urban, pop singer Josh Groban and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

"There's still an expectation from ownership here that we will still be presenting the highest level of entertainment from a non-hockey point of view. Nobody has said to me, 'Take half a year off and don't present any shows,' " he said.

"I'm a sales guy; I sell my building. Every sales guy has a higher quote from his owners (for the upcoming year), whether you're selling dishwashers, cars or arena dates."

Two years ago, PollStar Magazine, a leading entertainment industry journal, rated the MTS Centre the third-busiest facility in Canada, behind only the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and the Bell Centre in Montreal, and the 19th-busiest venue in the world.

Donnelly said operating the MTS Centre with the Winnipeg Jets as the primary tenant won't be much different from the last seven years when the AHL's Manitoba Moose called the building home. This season, there will be 45 hockey games, including exhibition contests, up only slightly from last year.

"It's not a new challenge. We have the same focus for entertainment that the guy who programs the Minnesota Wild's building does; likewise with the Denver team and the San Jose team.

"The rules of engagement might change, but once you settle the rules, you go ahead and go," he said.

Donnelly said the most successful buildings have stable, year-round ownership and feature a variety of programming. He pointed to American Airlines Center, owned by the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and the NHL's Dallas Stars.

"That's their building for a Beyonce concert and it's their building for the Mavericks. That's a successful building... Our ownership wants to keep this building vibrant and successful 365 days a year."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2011 A5

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