New Bucks arena books Gaf­fi­gan

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - GREEN SHEET - PIET LEVY

Jim Gaf­fi­gan won’t be do­ing his an­nual year-end res­i­dency at the Pabst The­ater this De­cem­ber, but the co­me­dian has al­ready booked his next Mil­wau­kee gig — at the Mil­wau­kee Bucks’ new arena Sept. 22.

The 51-year-old will be the first co­me­dian to play the $524 mil­lion fa­cil­ity, sched­uled to open by Septem­ber, ahead of the Bucks’ 2018-’19 sea­son.

“With Jim be­ing from the Chicagoland area, and (writ­ing part­ner and wife) Jean­nie from Mil­wau­kee, it’s some­thing we wanted to have,” said Raj Saha, gen­eral man­ager of the arena, ten­ta­tively called the Wis­con­sin En­ter­tain­ment and Sports Cen­ter.

Gaf­fi­gan’s show is the first con­cert an­nounce­ment for the new arena, but it won’t be the first one at the venue, Saha said. The grand open­ing date and artist will be an­nounced by the end of the year or early next year, Saha said, around the same time he ex­pects to hire a full-time tal­ent buyer for the venue. A sec­ond arena show an­nounce­ment is ex­pected by late Oc­to­ber.

“We’re out there look­ing to pro­gram the build­ing ev­ery night. That’s our goal,” said Saha, whose ré­sumé in­cludes man­age­ment po­si­tions at the 02 Arena in Lon­don and Madi­son Square Gar­den in New York. “We know how im­por­tant it is to not have dark days.”

Since 2007, Gaf­fi­gan has played the Pabst ev­ery De­cem­ber while spend­ing the holidays with his fam­ily and in-laws in Mil­wau­kee, amount­ing to nearly 30 sold-out shows, said Gary Witt, pres­i­dent of the Pabst The­ater Group.

Dur­ing that decade, Gaf­fi­gan’s pro­file rose con­sid­er­ably, thanks to his books “Dad Is Fat” and “Food: A Love Story;” Grammy-nom­i­nated com­edy al­bums “Jim Gaf­fi­gan: Mr. Uni­verse” and “Ob­sessed;” and his TV Land se­ries “The Jim Gaf­fi­gan Show,” co-writ­ten and ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced by Jean­nie.

Gaf­fi­gan be­came pop­u­lar enough for large the­ater res­i­den­cies and are­nas, mak­ing his ap­pear­ances at the 1,300-ca­pac­ity Pabst “ex­treme un­der­plays,” said Pabst Group Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Matt Beringer.

“He felt it was im­por­tant to keep that tra­di­tion go­ing,” Beringer said, which would in­clude oc­ca­sional open­ing song-and-dance num­bers by the Gaf­fi­gans’ five kids and Point Brew­ery sell­ing a spe­cial “Jim Gaf­fi­gan Pale Ale” at the the­ater.

“By the time we got to the end of 10 years, it felt like the right time to take stock of what are some other things we could do in the city,” Beringer said.

That led to the Bucks arena gig, with the Pabst Group act­ing as the pro­moter.

“Putting an artist that has been a long­time fix­ture of one of our build­ings in an amaz­ing new arena, we would not want to pass up an op­por­tu­nity like that,” Beringer said.

The arena show will be staged in the round, with about 15,000 seats avail­able, Saha said. It’s a huge leap from the Pabst, but Saha is con­fi­dent it will sell out.

“We think we’re in a pretty good po­si­tion that we may be able to an­nounce an­other Jim Gaf­fi­gan show,” Saha said.

Tick­ets, priced between $39.50 and $79.50, are avail­able be­gin­ning at 10 a.m. Oct. 27 by call­ing (800) 745-3000 or vis­it­ing tick­et­mas­ter.com.

Con­cert in­dus­try ex­perts an­tic­i­pate the new arena will ben­e­fit from a hon­ey­moon pe­riod for a year or two, but it will be com­pet­ing with venues in must play Chicago for tours.

Saha and Bucks Pres­i­dent Peter Fei­gin also took the un­usual step of pitch­ing the arena and mar­ket to four tal­ent man­age­ment firms in Lon­don last week while Fei­gin was there to speak at a con­fer­ence.

Saha said no con­tracts were signed in Lon­don, but he’s con­fi­dent that the meet­ings were pro­duc­tive.

“In the next cou­ple of months, we’ll def­i­nitely be able to get a show out of this,” Saha said.

JOHN MINCHILLO

Co­me­dian Jim Gaf­fi­gan will per­form at the new Mil­wau­kee Bucks arena on Sept. 22. It’s the first con­cert an­nounce­ment for the arena.

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