Fargodome’s busy 2014 concert season ‘bit of an abnormality’

FARGO - The Fargodome had a "phenomenal" run of concerts in 2014, the general manager said. With major acts performing throughout the year, including Pink, Luke Bryan, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and Motley Crue, the venue racke...


FARGO - The Fargodome had a “phenomenal” run of concerts in 2014, the general manager said.

With major acts performing throughout the year, including Pink, Luke Bryan, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and Motley Crue, the venue racked up a concert attendance of 122,887 – its fourth-highest ever.

Rob Sobolik said it’ll be hard to match those numbers again.

“I think for a market that’s 225,000, 250,000 people, that’s a bit of an abnormality to have that many huge shows,” he said.


So far, only a Taylor Swift concert is scheduled for 2015 after Cher canceled because of illness.

Venues in Grand Forks have announced two concerts in recent weeks, an Eric Church show at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on April 7 and a May 8 performance at the Alerus Center by Bryan.

Sobolik said the scheduling didn’t work to get Bryan back to the Fargodome this spring – his appearance in North Dakota will overlap with the Fargo Marathon.

Big numbers hard to top

To put the venue’s yearly attendance into perspective, Sobolik said it’s important to know the factors behind past years.

The Fargodome’s biggest year was 1993 with 145,900 people at concerts. He said that was the dome’s first full year of operation, and facilities usually see a spike early on. The year also was boosted by two consecutive Garth Brooks shows that each brought in more than 25,000 fans.

No. 2 was 1997 with 141,297 in attendance. Sobolik said it was Elton John’s first Fargodome show that drew a crowd of 25,188, and George Strait packed in 26,406 – the biggest crowd for any concert here.

Next was 1998 with a total of 129,156. Brooks played three straight days that brought in nearly 70,000 fans, and Shania Twain’s sold-out concert added another 24,764 to the total.


Last year’s attendance was the fourth highest, well above the 101,201 figure for 1996, which ranks No. 5 overall. In more recent years, 2010 came closest to 2014 – but was still well below with 85,300.

Sobolik said the Fargodome would love to have another year like 2014, which also got a boost when a Pink concert scheduled for late 2013 was postponed until January.

“But I don’t think you’re going to see that many, the amount of concerts that size and different acts coming through in one year in this market,” he said.

Sobolik said higher ticket prices today also play a role in an overall decline in attendance.

For the facility’s biggest three concert years, ticket prices didn’t top $40, and John’s first show was $25.75. Now, he said it’s hard to go to any concert for less than $40, and tickets for Swift’s upcoming Sept. 9 performance are selling for $40 to $120.

“In concert industry and industry speak, that was a different generation,” he said.

Pollstar reported earlier this month that the top 100 North American tours for 2014 hauled in a gross of $2.73 billion, down 2.2 percent from 2013. Ticket sales also fell 4.7 percent to 38.19 million, while the average ticket price rose 2.8 percent to a record of $71.44.

The Fargodome’s 2014 was helped by a diverse mix of artists appealing to several generations of concertgoers, and Sobolik said the goal for 2015 remains to land as many performances as possible.


“We continue to work through our very busy events schedule as announced, and as always continue to search out and look for every entertainment opportunity that’s out there that also fits into our schedule,” he said.


Top concert attendance by year

1. 1993 – 145,900

2. 1997 – 141,297

3. 1998 – 129,156

4. 2014 – 122,887

5. 1996 – 101,201

Source: Fargodome


Ryan Johnson is the Features Editor for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Since joining The Forum's staff in 2012, he has also reported on several beats, including higher education, business and features. Readers can reach him at 218-791-9610 or
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