Lone Star Park's Business Is Booming. What Are They Doing Right?
Mike Brooks Fans at last weekend's Wolfdance at Lone Star Park
For those paying attention to area booking, a curious string of events has been occurring this summer. Grand Prairie's Lone Star Park has cornered the market on Texas country with their Lone Star Music series, which has already drawn more than 86,000 people to six of the nine planned concerts. If the remaining three are anything like the Eli Young Band show, which brought out 26,519 people, they should easily eclipse 2011's attendance numbers, which were just shy of 110,000.
How did this happen? As early as 1997, Lone Star Park was booking music to go along with their horse racing events, and the bookings were smaller, like a pre-fame Dixie Chicks, who received just $4,700 to play songs between the races.
When I sat down to talk with Lone Star Park Vice President and Assistant General Manger G.W. Hail, he told me the first time the park really put things together was when they, with the help of Billy Bob's booker Gary Osier, brought in Jerry Jeff Walker, who in turn brought a crowd of more than 2,000. Hail smiled as he recounted a story about Walker playing a private show in the park's offices for two hours after his performance. In 2003, they had Willie Nelson perform, and despite some less than favorable weather, the Godfather of Texas country brought out more than 23,000 people.
When discussing attendance numbers with Hail and Director of Marketing Kim Bordano, you start to realize attendance rarely dips below 12,000. According to Bordano, that's because the park books a "perfect mix of the right acts when they're on their way up," acts Hail says fly under the radar of the AEG/Live Nation bidding war that tends to dominate the area's bigger venues.
As an outdoor venue, not having a cap on attendance doesn't hurt either. The park keeps the cost low, as racing and music fans pay just $5 for general admission before 7p.m., and music-only guests have the option of arriving after the races and paying $20. Hail says the park is "playing to two audiences," the "core horse racing fans" that come for the thrill of the race and "our concert fans who come for the music." Often these crowds blend.
Tonight, Pat Green makes his fifth appearance at Lone Star Park, and the staff expects around 20,000 people to show up for a July 4 pre-party. This is not out of the ordinary for Green, as his previous four appearances at the park have drawn between 16,000 and 21,000 fans each time, but he's an example of the park's ability to book rising acts early and keep them coming back.
This year's Eli Young performance was the fourth at the track and set a record for attendance, while causing a bit of a traffic jam. They expect more than 20,000 people to show up for Green, and Hail sees it as a "testament to what we've done with repeat business. Anyone can put up a stage and book a band, but not everyone can deliver the artist. Pat Green has played here four times, Randy Rodgers has played seven."
Pat Green plays tonight at Lone Star Park. The concert series concludes this weekend with the Josh Abbott Band on Friday, July 6 and Billy Currington on Saturday, July 7.