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Q-C Arena has left its Mark

MOLINE -- By now, what more can be said about The Mark of the Quad Cities? It's undeniably a huge success in all ways.

Since its debut, the arena has won practically every top award for a venue its size, both for gross receipts and general customer and performer satisfaction.

File photo

Performer Elton John set the record for the fastest sellout show at The Mark of the Quad Cities in Moline in 1997. The civic center has drawn many top entertainment acts, such as Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, Brooks and Dunn and Metallica.

Commercially, The Mark has struck gold time and time again, in the concert arena, with successful sports teams and with other events.

Last March, the 3 millionth patron passed through The Mark turnstiles to take in the Quad City Mallards game against the Brantford Smoke.

In July, Elton John set a record for the quickest sellout at The Mark. All seats to his October show sold out in just 18 minutes.

The Mark also had two other concerts in 1997 enter its top 10 quickest sellouts list -- Reba McEntire and Brooks and Dunn, and Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper.

Critically, The Mark has scored big. Last January, for the fourth consecutive year, The Mark was named Arena of the Year in its class (7,000-12,999 capacity) by Performance Magazine.

The Moline venue has been bestowed the honor every year it has been in operation. It is the first time any arena its size has won the award four consecutive times.

``This is truly a remarkable feat,'' executive director Steve Hyman said at the time. ``I say it over and over, but I'll say it once more -- the reason for The Mark receiving this award every year since its opening can only be attributed to a dedicated and hard-working staff and a very supportive community.''

The awards and subsequent industry buzz have had a direct impact on The Mark's ability to draw big names, Mr. Hyman said. ``We were included in the first leg of the KISS tour (in 1996), and we were the smallest arena by far -- by 5,000 seats -- in that initial run.''

A good reputation and a lot of work also helped the Moline venue pick up Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, a surprise concert by The Artist (a.k.a. Prince) and many other big-name concerts in 1997. Those would only have been pipe dreams in the Quad-Cities before the arena opened in May 1993.

``In all honesty, I had no sense of how big this was going to be, how well this was going to work out,'' Mr. Hyman said in 1997. ``The unknown was to what degree of success it would have, and how long it would sustain itself. And the strength of that has been a very welcome surprise.''

The result has been a continually robust list of notables coming to the Quad-Cities, from country music's Reba McEntire to venerable crooner Frank Sinatra to heavy metal's Metallica.

Although not every effort ends with a positive result -- a concert by Sting fell through and an effort to get the Rolling Stones didn't happen -- most of the time The Mark pulls out the big score.

``It takes a lot of work to get those shows,'' Mr. Hyman said. ``We don't just sit around waiting for the phone to ring. This is the first building I've ever run, and we haven't slowed down a bit since I got here. It's been action-packed.

``You can't slow down in this business,'' he said, ``or people will blow right by you.''

Nobody has blown by The Mark yet. Because of that, the Quad-Cities has not only been treated to a wider menu of concerts, but it's seen a trickle-down effect as the entertainment scene has exploded since The Mark's arrival.

``I don't want to sound self-serving, but I have no doubt that we've made people think that this could be done on a smaller level,'' Mr. Hyman said last spring. ``And, as The Mark has gained a greater reputation for this area in the entertainment world, those shows have become more possible.

``I don't want to sound like this is all because of us, though,'' he was quick to add. ``There was, and still is, a very solid level of entertainment here through the Circas, the Music Guilds and many other options. What was lacking was a larger facility like this one to allow the bigger names to come here and allow a greater number of people to experience that.

``I think there was a good foundation in entertainment when we opened, and it was taken to as high of a level as it could've been. We've just raised that level by opening up new opportunities.''

To Mr. Hyman, The Mark's influence on the Quad-Cities falls into two key areas.

``One is in the level of the quality of life here,'' he said. ``Because we never had a venue like this before, many people didn't realize what they were missing,'' he said. ``Now, we've got AAA basketball. We've got AA hockey. We've got people like Reba McEntire and Neil Diamond coming to play shows here. People are finding out that's nice to have.

``Which, in a way, leads to the other thing -- which, at least I've been told that we've had an influence in -- is that we've become a tool in recruiting not only companies, but people, to live in this area,'' Mr. Hyman said.

``If someone was looking to go to, say, Peoria or the Quad-Cities in 1990, and they were looking at enticements, advantages and the sort ... well, now we're on an even footing.''

-- By Sean Leary (January 26, 1998)

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