The concert industry in Columbus is hopping, with no shortage of places to see local, regional and national acts and numerous local promoters. But PromoWest Productions is the grandpappy of them all.
The concert industry in Columbus is hopping, with no shortage of places to see local, regional and national acts and numerous local promoters.
But PromoWest Productions is the grandpappy of them all.
The company, founded by Scott Stienecker 25 years ago, owns and operates four venues (five, if you count the indoor and outdoor stages at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion) and books/promotes shows at other venues as well. It officially started when Stienecker took over the Columbus Agora, renamed it the Newport Music Hall and brought rocker Neil Young to town on Sept. 19, 1984.
Stienecker was neither bragging nor speaking tongue-in-cheek when he told The Beat it has unfolded pretty much as he planned it.
"I was in college at Bowling Green (State University) and I got on the concert committee," he recalled. "I got to meet (renowned Cleveland-based promoter) Jules Belkin and I decided 'I want to do this.' "
Stienecker actually engraved the names of Belkin and legendary promoters/managers Bill Graham and Jerry Weintraub on the inside of his built-in wooden down-room closet, which led to much ribbing from his roommates and friends.
"I've worked with Jules, I interned with Bill Graham at age 21, but I never worked with Jerry Weintraub," he said. "Now my buddies just shake their heads."
One of PromoWest's projects with Belkin was the opening of Polaris Amphitheater in 1994. The partnership later sold the venue, which later was renamed Germain Amphitheater and is now closed.
"Columbus was a secondary market until Polaris Amphitheater opened," Stienecker said.
Following the sale of the amphitheater, PW operated the Brewery District Pavilion for a few years until opening PromoWest Pavilion in 2001. Incubus was the first show at the Arena District location, now Lifestyle Communities Pavilion.
The venue is perhaps best-known, both locally and within the industry, as having an indoor-outdoor stage, allowing for 5,500-capacity outdoor shows seasonally and 2,200-capacity indoor shows year-round.
"You have to stay ahead of the curve," Stienecker said of the vanguard design.
A second PromoWest Pavilion is scheduled to open in 2010 in Pittsburgh, part of a plan to launch a total of five such venues.
Additionally, the company operates The Basement and the A&R Bar, adjacent to the LCP in the Arena District.
"The industry is in that middle ground right now," Stienecker said, "and we're in the sweet spot" with the ability to host shows for varying audience sizes in attendance-appropriate facilities.
PromoWest also books at the Schottenstein Center, and has done shows at Ohio Stadium.
In the 25 years, "we've done pretty much everybody," he said. "I can go into a CD store and scan the racks and there aren't many acts we haven't brought to Columbus."
PWP is now doing more than 400 shows a year, he said.
He's especially proud of working with once-local jam-band O.A.R., which got its start playing fraternity shows at the Newport.
Asked for a story or two but to keep it G-rated, Stienecker offered, "I guess no Marilyn Manson stories then."
He recalled introducing former Cleveland Indians player Kenny Lofton to Janet Jackson at Polaris, seeing Phil Collins backstage playing the bagpipes shirtless, playing hoops with Billy Corgan and taking Neil Young windsurfing.
He also remembered cleanups of sod (the now-infamous incident of Ozzy Osbourne skipping his planned OzzFest appearance and fans responding by removing and tossing most of the turf on the Polaris lawn) and fake blood (the annual GWAR escapades).
One of his coolest recollections was of the Rolling Stones at Ohio Stadium.
"We had built a trailer-compound outside the stadium, and ringed it with fences in a four-foot perimeter. In the center, we had a video arcade where most of the guys, Ron Wood and Keith Richards, played games and smoked and had beers. But Mick Jagger just jogged that four-foot space between the trailers and fence until he was ready. When he decided he was finished, he gave us the signal, we started up the van and the rest of the band dropped their games and drinks and jumped in for the drive to the side of the stage."
The company celebrates its 25th anniversary with a Bob Dylan show Tuesday, Nov. 3, at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion. Tickets are $47.50. Call 1-800-745-3000.