Moline’s TaxSlayer Center Welcomes First Concert Back in 16 Months Friday Night
After more than 16 months of sonic darkness, the TaxSlayer Center in Moline is more than ready to rock Friday, July 9 at 7 p.m.
Its first concert since the Zac Brown Band on Feb. 28, 2020 will be the powerhouse lineup of legendary arena rock bands — featuring
Dokken, Lynch Reunion (with special guest star guitarist George Lynch), Firehouse, Jack Russell’s Great White, and special guest Brandon Gibbs (a native of Burlington, Iowa).
While Illinois indoor venues have been able to open to 100-percent audience capacity since mid-June, TaxSlayer Center executive director Scott Mullen said about 1,000 tickets were sold for Friday by earlier this week; the arena seats about 11,000. Mullen expected to hire 100 people to work the rock show, including stagehands, security, ushers, maintenance, and ticket sellers, plus Levy Restaurants concession staff. The July 23 Queen tribute concert (“One Night of Queen”) is one of the better selling dates on their tour, at about 2,500 sold so far, he said.
The extended Covid closures (since March 2020) cost the Moline arena (at 1201 River Drive) over $2 million in operating expenses, plus over $700,000 that TaxSlayer Center spent on Covid-related improvements, Mullen said.
They received $468,000 from Illinois CARES grant funding, and have applied for $2 million in the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, but haven’t heard back yet, “since governmental entities receive last priority,” he said. “We also have asked the city and state for additional relief grants, but have not yet been approved or rejected at this point.”
The Small Business Administration changed the bill that Congress passed “to bump governmental entities phase 3, so we have to wait and hope the money doesn’t run out,” Mullen said. “They hope to have decisions made by next Friday but so far they have failed to meet any of
their scheduled dates, so I’m not holding my breath.”
In December 2020, Congress approved the SVOG program, securing $16.1 billion in desperately-needed financial aid for thousands of business owners nationwide. Over six months after the SVOG program was approved, and two months since applications opened, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) reported last month that less than one percent of applicants had received any funding.
The continuously delayed rollout of SVOG funding has been a continued issue for the Small Business Administration. After several false starts and technical snafus, applications finally opened April 26th, and of the estimated 4,910 small business owners who qualified for the first round of funding, only 90 were awarded grants as of June 9th, according to a piece at liveforlivemusic.com.
That led a bipartisan coalition of Senators led by the initial sponsors of the SVOG program (then known as the Save Our Stages Act) — Amy Klobuchar (D-MD), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — sent a letter to SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, urging drastic improvements in the agency’s handling of the grant application process.
“The biggest challenge was not having any indication of opening at 100% capacity with no restrictions,” Mullen said recently of trying to survive during Covid. “We had shows that wanted to confirm but we’re reluctant to do so without an assurance there would be no capacity
restrictions. Those shows ended up in other states that were fully reopened.”
Out of the arena’s 20 full-time employees and 6 part-time regulars, Mullen kept on eight staff throughout the pandemic. “We are bringing the rest back as we gradually begin to ramp up again over the next couple months,” he said. “We also have about 500 total part-time employees that work events and they will be brought back as needed for show going forward.”
He worked over the past 16 months with the International Association of Venue Managers as their director of arenas, to get Congress to include more venues included in the “Save Our Stages” relief bill.
As of July 6, the SBA made much greater progress on issuing SVOG grants. Out of the total of 14,884 grant applications seeking $11.7 billion, 4,222 grants have been awarded, totaling $3.2 billion (an average grant of $758,000), including the following Quad-Cities venues:
- Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Rock Island — $1,238,075
- Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, Davenport — $564,903
- River Music Experience, Davenport — $190,746
- The Rust Belt, East Moline — $140,937
“It’s much needed and much appreciated for sure,” Brett Hitchcock, Circa’s director of audience development, said Thursday of the new grant.
Tyson Danner, RME executive director, agreed the federal funding is crucial to make up for 2020-21 lost revenue. The SBA calculated grant awards so everyone approved would receive 45 percent of 2019 earned revenue – which includes things like ticket sales, concessions and bar revenue, but not grants and donations.
“It worked out for us,” Danner said Thursday, “That made up the rest of the difference we had lost from the shutdown, which is great. It worked for us, but I’m sure it didn’t work for everybody. Everybody is in
such a different situation. Whether you’re a small bar that has music, or a big performance venue, those Covid restrictions hit everybody really differently.”
“The shutdown had a huge impact for us. We lost approximately half of our usual revenue,” he said. “Luckily, we were able to secure PPP funds and other federal support available to businesses. And, as a nonprofit, we were privileged to have access to additional grant funds. As a funded partner of the Quad Cities Cultural Trust, the additional support we received from the Trust made a huge difference in our ability to continue our educational programming and online live music offerings. So, even though we were physically shut down for concerts, we stayed just as busy providing streaming and virtual content, and socially-distanced Curbside Concerts. It was anything but a slow year!”
Tickets for Friday’s TaxSlayer show are $20 to $45.50, available HERE. Two big upcoming concerts that are selling well, Mullen said, are The Doobie Brothers Aug. 28 and Michael Buble Sept. 16. For more information, visit www.taxslayercenter.com.