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Columnist
Sears Centre ready for 'hot ticket' events - literally
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/23/2010 12:00 AM

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Wielding a blowtorch isn't a common thing for me, but I finally had a chance to scratch that task off my life's "to-do list" last week at the Sears Centre.

Fear not, I lack the intentions of an arsonist; I'm not an angry resident furious that the village of Hoffman Estates has taken over the Sears Centre. I was assigned to write a piece about last week's Elton John show and how that could help the arena's reputation.

Trustee Karen Mills on Monday called the show "the greatest reopening" she could have expected as the Elton John show was the first hot-ticket event at the Sears Centre under the new ownership and management.

Arena General Manager Ben Gibbs handed me a sheet proclaiming the concert to be the "highest ticket gross for a solo performer since the building opened in 2006." That means the show made money. Arena management would prefer that number not be released to the public, and that info wasn't shared with the Daily Herald. Management claims showing that dollar amount to competitors would hurt the arena's chances of booking other acts in the future, giving venues like Allstate Arena some ammunition to negotiate their own deals with performers.

Because the arena is owned by the village, state law makes those village expenditures available to the public, just like how village employees have their salaries posted online. The village isn't readily making all arena expenditures available, but they could likely be released via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Gibbs also touted that the Saturday, April 17 Hillsong United show drew 10,854 fans, thanks to the general admission configuration of the seats - that's the largest crowd in the arena's history. Quite a weekend for the Sears Centre.

But back to the blowtorch. In Vaudevillian fashion, Gibbs wanted a photo with the story to illustrate the Sears Centre could attract big-name acts, that the reason the show sold out was because Elton John is a "hot ticket."

I rolled my eyes when Gibbs suggested the idea. But when our photographer, Mark Welsh, agreed to the set up, we found ourselves in the bowels of the building talking to the arena's staff to see if burning a pile of tickets would set off the fire alarm. I hope Fire Chief Robert Gorvett has stopped reading at this point. I don't want to stoke any fires over safety. Suddenly the arena's "pyrotechnic mode," which makes sure smoke and flames from the stage are properly ventilated, was activated. That's when I found myself with a blowtorch in my hand, igniting a stack of tickets Gibbs held up. Then I scampered off frame so the photo could be snapped.

Those photos never made it to publication. Perhaps one day the photos will be released to the public. Or the Sears Centre could just book more big-name acts and make a "hot ticket" commonplace.