15 Years of Concert Consonance

By Terry Hanley

Sweet emotions are evoked in past patrons of the CenturyLink Center when they remember concerts they have attended at the venue. The 270,000 square-foot, 14,000-seat riverfront arena, located in south Bossier City, offers concertgoers an intimate experience with their favorite artists and state-of-the-art amenities.

Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker recalls his first experience at the arena as an eye-opening event.

“When I attended the sold out Elton John concert on the arena’s opening night back in 2000, I immediately realized that Bossier City had something very special with the arena,” Walker said. “Since then, the CenturyLink Center has provided a wonderful venue for countless concerts and events.”

In the years following that sold out Elton John show, the arena has played host to myriad musical acts including Aerosmith, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Nine Inch Nails, Miranda Lambert, Snoop Dogg, Prince, Tool, and, most recently, Taylor Swift — one of the world’s most sought out entertainers — who kicked off her 1989 World Tour there last month.

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Laine Shemwell, a resident of Monroe that attended the sold-out Swift concert with family and friends, said she has been to numerous concerts at the arena. One of the major draws for her friends and family to drive over to the arena for a show is the intimate atmosphere it provides.

“Other concerts that I have been to were outdoor festivals — Hangout Festival, Jazz Fest, Buku — but those are outside, so those are totally different,” Shemwell said. “When I saw Usher in New York City at Madison Square Garden, our seats at that show were not nearly as good as our seats have been at the CenturyLink Center shows. There is not a bad seat in the house.”

The staff and accessibility to the arena’s amenities always have been top class, according to Shemwell, something she said has made every concert enjoyable.

According to CenturyLink Center General Manager Rebecca Bonnevier, the arena has been recognized as a Top Stop multiple times by Venues Today Magazine and has been ranked in the Top 50 Venues Worldwide by Pollstar Magazine.

“It is one of the top venues in the [United] States,” said Kelly Wells, vice-president of sports and tourism marketing for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. “With our regional location, the management of SMG, and the vision of the city of Bossier (City) to build that venue, they have always been in the top in attendance at concert events. The more that the Shreveport-Bossier destination grows, the bigger the events that we will bring.”

Other arena honors include Prime Site Awards by Facilities & Event Management Magazine, and CenturyLink staff have been recognized locally by the P.R.I.D.E. Awards, the Athena Awards, and Greater Shreveport’s 40 Under 40.

“I think it separates us from cities that have not invested in a quality arena,” said Bossier City District 1 Councilman Scott Irwin. “People like to come to an arena that appears very well-maintained, is modern, and has all the convenience that they are looking for at a venue. It helps to have an arena that is bringing in the same type of acts that you would see in larger metropolitan areas like Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio by making us a well-rounded community. It makes us look like the type of city that can compete with major metropolitan areas.”

Bonnevier said ticket sales are a major driver for attracting higher-level musical acts to the CenturyLink Center, as well as tax incentives that the state offers artists for holding rehearsals.

Click image below for Taylor Swift’s Bossier City photo album…

“One of the reasons we were able to get Taylor Swift was because the state offers tax credits for rehearsals,” Bonnevier said. “So, we did the rehearsal, then kicked off her tour here, and they were able to get tax credits. It had a big economic impact to the area because the entire show rehearsed here for a couple of days.”

Bonnevier acted as director of marketing for the arena when it opened in late fall 2000, then moved to her home state of Pennsylvania. She is happy to be back to celebrate its 15-year anniversary.

“We are 15 years strong,” Bonnevier said. “I hear comments from people that come into the building, and they cannot believe that it is 15 years old. I think that can be attributed to a pride in the people that work here that want to physically take care of the building and work hard every day to make it a success. The city is reinvesting in the arena and wants to keep it the premiere destination to see entertainment in the region.”

As part of the CenturyLink Center’s 15th Anniversary Celebration, classic rock legends The Eagles will perform today at 8 p.m., July 29, the last stop on their History of the Eagles concert tour.

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“I am so proud that the Eagles will be here because they have not been here since 2002,” Bonnevier said. “It is an event that is part of our 15th anniversary celebration, and it is a show that I know people will enjoy and hopefully make memories for years to come.”

Myra Collins, a vendor for band merchandise, worked the sold-out Eagles show in 2002 and said she remembers it being packed. According to both Bonnevier and Collins, country and classic rock shows are the biggest draws at the CenturyLink Center.

“In this area we pull from a lot of people from east Texas when it is country, because they would rather come over here than go all the way to Dallas,” Collins said. “I see a lot more Texas driver’s licenses than I do Louisiana when it is a country show.”

Collins, who works as a travel consultant at Creative Travel, said that working at the venue has provided her an extra income, as well as providing her a chance to network and meet new friends. Collins said that, depending on the crowd, she is sometimes able to take in a song or two at a concert on a break, a perk of the job she enjoys.

“I have worked with some wonderful people over the years, both at the arena and with the bands,” she said. “Everybody has just been fabulous. It has been a lot of work, but it has been a lot of fun. I worked the Eagles show in 2002 and am hoping we pack the building again.”