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Entertainment star still shining

By Cathy Lubenski

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
February 10, 1991

The 1991 economic buzz-word, ``recession,'' rhymes with depression, but neither recession nor depression dented Pittsburgh's entertainment industry in 1990. Although a new star has risen over the area's show-biz venues in the form of Star Lake Amphitheater in Washington County, the tried-and-true, traditional sites did just fine last year.

The Civic Arena, the Benedum Center for Performing Arts, Heinz Hall, the Syria Mosque, the A.J. Palumbo Center on the Duquesne University campus and Melody Tent and Amphitheater maintained their reputations as the top hot spots in western Pennsylvania.

Despite the number of concerts that defected to Star Lake Amphitheater, Lance Jones, vice president of promotions at the Civic Arena, said the number of arena events was higher in 1990 than '89.

In 1989, there were 131 events in the arena; in 1990, there were 135. ``This is good, because of the advent of Star Lake the number of arena concerts in '89 were 28, while in '90, that figure went down to 14,'' Jones said.

Arena officials have started booking acts that don't normally play the Civic Arena, like Stars on Ice, a touring ice show; a soap opera festival; the Brian Boitano/Katarina Witt ice show; the Moscow Circus; a gymnastics tour starring Mary Lou Retton; and World Wrestling Federation matches.

In addition to those special events, the arena is also home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, indoor la crosse, and several home University of Pittsburgh basketball games. (Jones has since joined the flow to Star Lake; he's resigned as vice president of promotions at the Civic Arena and is now director of marketing at Star Lake Amphitheater.)

Ed Traversari of DiCesare-Engler, who books shows into the Syria Mosque, Melody Tent and Amphitheater at Station Square, and Star Lake Amphitheater, gave a financial thumbs up for those sites.

``1990 was a good year for us at the Syria Mosque, Palumbo Center, and Melody Tent and Amphitheater,'' he said.

The A.J. Palumbo Center did so well that it was again presented a year-end award as one of the top five auditoriums in the United States with under 10,000 seats by {MDUL}Performance {MDNM}magazine.

Across town in Oakland at the Syria Mosque, Traversari said, ``We had an average of four to six shows per month in our strong concert months, January through May, at the Mosque and then we pick up again in September through December.' '

Because there's no air conditioning at the Mosque, shows aren't booked there in the summer. ``In the summer, acts want to play outside,'' Traversari said, ` `that's where the business has gone the last few years.''

For that reason, the Melody Tent (3,500 seats) and the Melody Amphitheater (2, 000 seats) were started in 1989. Located at Station Square in front of the Monongahela River, the tent and amphitheater are perfect for smaller acts that could never fill Star Lake Amphitheater.

Star Lake dominated the entertainment industry in the Pittsburgh area and in the country in 1990. It has been nominated for the Amphitheater of the Year and New Venue of the Year by {MDUL}Performance {MDNM}Readers Poll Awards and was also nominated for the Pollstar 1990 Concert Industry Award for Best New Major Concert Venue.

Star Lake overcame traffic problems during the first of the two sold-out Billy Joel concerts.

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