Release Date: October 26, 2005
Source: Chronicle Journal
Thunder Bay Community Auditorium general manager Bob Halvorsen has seen virtually all the big name international superstars from Bob Hope to Tom Jones perform at the 1500-seat facility. But it’s a local group, Flamenco Caravan, that he raves about. "That, in my mind, was one of the finest shows I’ve ever seen in that building," he said. "You expect someone on the international stage to be good but when you find someone in Thunder Bay who is as good or better, that ices it for you." Halvorsen said only 900 patrons saw the Latin jazz band but he swears that anyone who was at the performance Oct. 7 will agree with his assessment. "When you have one of us rise to that level, I was proud of them," he said. Just four days after the TBCA’s 20th anniversary on Oct. 16, Halvorsen discussed some the famous acts to grace the auditorium’s stage as well as the challenges facing the facility. Comedian Bob Hope was the opening act on Oct. 16, 1985 performing before a full house. One prominent person was missing that day. Mayor Walter Assef, a staunch opponent to the auditorium, said he would never enter the building and he never did. Following Hope, Halvorsen said Thunder Bay audiences were treated to stars from just about every segment of show business. Rudolph Nuryev was here and so was Bill Cosby. Gordon Lightfoot and Anne Murray delighted their fans with such hits as If You Could Read My Mind and Snowbird. George Carlin, Bob Newhart and Howie Mandel had them rolling in the aisles. Country fans came in droves to see Johnny Cash,Waylon Jennings, George Jones and the Queen of Country Music Loretta Lynn. The list goes on and Halvorsen was hard pressed to remember some of the other A-list entertainers. But he does know that the auditorium has averaged 100,000 patrons annually which roughly adds up to two million in 20 years based on about 150 events yearly. "We’re really trying to be cognizant of what people want rather than be arrogant and program what we want," Halvorsen said. "We’ve really tried to make inroads in the community. We’re trying to uncover every last demographic." Even punk rockers. Despite a recent incident where fans rushed the stage during a performance of The Used damaging seats in the front row, Halvorsen said similar groups will not be banned. "We’re not going to stop programming to this demographic," he said. "We’ll let ticket sales determine what we’ll do." Halvorsen said there have been five sold out punk rock shows this year. He said the auditorium has three positives in its favour, the first being that it’s a world class facility. "Everyone who has played here said this is one of the finest they’ve ever seen." People attending performances at the auditorium have noticed the clarity of the sounds emanating from the stage. Halvorsen said that’s because the acoustics are as good or better as any other facility of this type. It’s geographic location in the middle of Canada is a big factor. "We’re becoming a destination rather than a drive-by or a fly-over," he said. Probably the biggest plus is that the staff has been together 20 years. "Right from the box office to the technical department, these people know their business," Halvorsen said. "The professional level of the staff is second to none in the industry." Despite its successes over the years, the auditorium also faces financial challenges but Halvorsen is confident these can be met and overcome. "My hope is we’re doing enough at the service end that will justify the city continuing to support us," he said. "As long as the bus is running, we want to make sure it’s full (of passengers)," Halvorsen said. "If it’s empty, you have to close down the route."