Stockton is ready for its breakout moment.

The California city in the San Joaquin Valley has been enjoying a resurgence in recent years, with more millennials choosing to settle down and start families in the growing town. That’s brought a surge in ticket sales for the SMG-managed Stockton Arena and Bob Hope Theatre, which are bringing new bookings and entertainment options to the area to meet the growing demand. From Christian to Latin, rock and pop to collegiate sports, the 12,000-capacity Stockton Arena and the 2,042-seat Bob Hope Theatre are easily configurable for any size show and within a few hours drive of most of the Bay Area.

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Amplify recently sat down with SMG Stockton General Manager Kendra Clark to discuss both buildings and learn why Stockton is the right place for most touring shows and performances.

What are big shows coming up this year?

We have a big couple months ahead. Next week we have Rock & Worship Road Show and then Banda MS on March 11 and Pepe Aguilar in July — Latin is huge for us here. At the Bob Hope Theatre we’re doing about 50 events annually and it has been a banner year. We’ve welcomed Ringo Starr, The Beach Boys and Reik in the last few months. Alabama just went on sale through Richter Entertainment Group and it’s selling really well.

The Stockton Arena does very strong business with Christian acts. Who brings you those shows?

We work with Transparent Productions over at the theater. We did Chris Tomlin with them in December which was a sellout. They have MercyMe coming up in May and Casting Crowns in June. The Christian shows draw from all around — typically as far south as Merced and then out into the Foothills and up into the East Bay. When you look at our demographics, the majority is Stockton and Modesto, and then about 20% from the East Bay.

Stockton Arena is hosting the NCAA Women’s Regionals at the end of March. Has the arena hosted a major women’s tournament like this before?

This is our first time and we’re thrilled that we are able to host the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. It’s obviously not only huge for us at the arena and with SMG, but for the community as a whole. We’re hosting it in conjunction with Visit Stockton which operates our convention and visitor’s bureau and the University of the Pacific.

What have been the big shows that have come to Stockton in the last year or two?

Carrie Underwood was last April and did phenomenal. Disney on Ice has been huge for us and has grown tenfold over the past six years since SMG has been in the market. That’s one of our larger events. StocktonCon is a Comic-Con-style event tailored to Stockton. It was started by a local promoter and has grown from a one-day event in the university gym to the arena for two solid days, and it continues to grow every year. We see over 15,000 people a year to that event. And we had Kevin Hart in August, which was a very successful show.

What kind of business does the theater do?

Our theater is an original Fox theater. In the early 2000s, the city restored it back to its original state, bringing back its gorgeous rotunda with gold pillars and the crushed velvet red seats. It’s a phenomenal place to see a show. We have a classic cinema series and we’ll show one movie a month. We just showed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and last weekend, it was “In the Heat of the Night.” We have comedians, and have hosted everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to George Lopez and Jeff Dunham. Theresa Caputo sold out the place twice.

Why should agents and promoters bring you shows?

Stockton is a great market and it’s a great venue and set up. The arena is extremely flexible. Basically, we can do any kind of setup, but I think our greatest asset is we sit on the water, so when you’re in the Record Press Club on the third floor, which is great for a VIP upsell, you can go out on the balcony and enjoy the best view in Stockton. You’re overlooking left field of Stockton Ballpark and the Stockton Marina. You can actually get on a boat and in eight hours be at Pier 39 in San Francisco. We also have a full-service hotel that’s only 40 steps from our front door.

What kind of size configurations are available at the arena?

We can do everything from a quarter house setup, which is about 4,000 all the way to in-the-round which will get us to about 11,200.

How routable is the venue?

We’re in the northern part of the Central Valley which means we’re about 40 minutes outside of Sacramento and about two hours outside of San Francisco. We work very closely with the other SMG venues in the region, like the Save Mart Center in Fresno and now the Citizens Business Bank Arena down in Ontario, and the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. There’s a lot of collaboration within the company on routings and collaborating on deals.

Stockton’s had some challenges with the municipal bankruptcy. What’s the concert economy like and what are people looking for now?

We have had our challenges, it’s not a secret; it’s been very well documented. I would say over the past year-and-a-half, there has been a definite upswing in the economy. With the exiting of bankruptcy, you’ve seen the entire community take a deep breath and have that sigh of relief. It’s been reflected in our ticket sales. It’s been amazing to watch the community as a whole come together and get back out. People just want to laugh and they want to have a good time. It’s been exciting to see that. Our average ticket sales have gone up at both venues and the attendance has risen. Stockton is definitely a community on the rebound.

What else is there to do in Stockton besides go to shows at the arena?

There’s a lot of stuff to do. Year-round, there’s always a festival that you can catch — our biggest is the Asparagus Festival. Once a month, we have the Stockmarket, which is an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to showcase their art, pottery and other goods that they make. We sit in wine country — Lodi is 20 minutes up the road from us, with over 40 wineries in the area. Most of the Zinfandel grapes that are in Napa wines are grown in Lodi. There’s something for everyone in Stockton and we love when people visit the area — they’re always pleasantly surprised by our wonderful community and its support of our venues and the tours and shows that come to town.

Dave Brooks
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Dave Brooks

Founder & Executive Editor at Amplify Media
Dave Brooks has over 15 years experience as a writer, including eight years as the Managing Editor of Venues Today. He started Amplify in 2014 to give the industry its own voice and turn up the volume on live entertainment.
Dave Brooks
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