Minneapolis Convention Center enters the concert market

Minneapolis Convention Center enters the concert market
Photos courtesy of the Minneapolis Convention Center

Though the Minneapolis Convention Center has housed a massive 3400-seat auditorium since the early '90s, the building has stuck to hosting conventions and similar corporate events and mostly steered clear of booking concerts or delving into the live music market.

But now, thanks in part to the MCC's savvy entertainment and event sales manager, Peter Johns, who has a history in large-scale concert promotion, the Convention Center is dipping its toes into the music world starting with a May 2 performance by iconic singer and songwriter Paul Simon.

When I initially

wrote about the Paul Simon concert announcement a few weeks back

, I noted that the MCC seemed like an odd spot for the show, mainly due to my unfamiliarity with the venue's auditorium and the fact that there haven't been many shows booked their in the past.

To help acquaint me to the MCC's concert space, Johns and communications manager Kristen Montag called me up and invited me to check out what they have to offer to the concert-going population at large.

I'm happy to report that the MCC's auditorium is simply stunning. Though the color palette leaves a little to be desired (it was, after all, built to host lectures and other similarly sterile events and is classified as a "learning facility"), everything else about the room is beautiful. 

The main room seats a little over 2,000 people, and includes three futuristic-looking pods that can be opened up to add almost 1500 more seats. And -- get this -- the supercool add-on space pods also rotate away from the auditorium and can be used as three separate lecture halls. 

Minneapolis Convention Center enters the concert market
Courtesy of the Minneapolis Convention Center
​Johns, a veteran of the concert industry who helped produce Edge Fest in the '90s and managed the marketing and promotion of all of the non-hockey events at the Xcel Energy Center for the better part of the 2000s, is excited at the prospect of bringing more music events into the Convention Center.

"This has been sort of a 'best-kept secret,'" he said, while showing me around the auditorium space. 

In addition to the Paul Simon concert on May 2 and a PACER benefit featuring Sheryl Crow on May 7, the Minnesota Orchestra has just announced that they will move into the MCC for their 2012-2013 season.

The MCC's timing couldn't be more fortuitous; their foray into the concert market is happening at almost the exact same time that the Northrop Auditorium on the U of M campus closed its doors for a long renovation project. Johns insists that they aren't trying to compete with other venues, however -- they just hope to give concert promoters another option for those awkward mid-sized gigs that are too big for one of the theaters along Hennepin but too small for one of the arenas.

For more on the MCC's musical offerings, keep an eye on their concert calendar.

Christian rock band Skillet performing at the MCC in 2009
Christian rock band Skillet performing at the MCC in 2009
Courtesy of the Minneapolis Convention Center

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