Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sears Centre Struggles to Survive

Hoffman Estates just can't seem to support a concert venue. Poplar Creek was a huge loss for the region, but it was forced to fold when the World Music Theater in Tinley Park was constructed way back around 1990. The World was and always will be a horrible place to hear music. It's not built for music. It's built for capacity. Yes, Poplar Creek wasn't perfect. But it was one of those old-style outdoor music venues with decent sightlines and a reasonably good sound system. It felt intimate, while The World felt corporate.

Logistically, Hoffman Estates and the World are (no pun intended) worlds apart, especially amongst the traffic congestion of an urban center like Chicago. So, there was no reason to think that the region couldn't support both venues. But the developers that owned Sears new headquarters wanted the space and owned the property, so it shut down Poplar Creek.

Cut to 2004, when these same developers were struggling to get anything going in the area. So, they proposed a new concert and sporting venue. It's actually not a bad place -- a mid-size arena, featuring 11,000 seats or so. In a lot of ways, it's akin to UIC Pavilion.

Unfortunately, according to a story in the Daily Herald, the Sears Centre isn't faring very well financially. The economy probably has a ton to do with it, and at least, at this stage of the game, it looks like the venue will remain open and won't be shuttered. The owners of the Sears Centre are buried in a mound of debt, and the village of Hoffman Estates might have to come to their rescue.

Here's the good news. The village of Hoffman Estates thinks that the Sears Centre ought to hold more concerts. The sports teams that play in the venue have been struggling to attract crowds, but music acts are selling tickets by the boatload. So we may actually get more and better shows up here, if they can steal some artist away from the city. Not a bad deal, and hopefully it will work.

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