True North itching to put on arena concerts again, says VP

The postponed Rage Against the Machine tour is one True North Sports and Entertainment wants to bring to Winnipeg as soon as possible. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Winnipeggers could soon be seeing big concert tours coming back to local venues like Bell MTS Place — as long as things progress on the vaccine front and the fight against COVID-19.

Kevin Donnelly, senior VP at True North Sports and Entertainment — which owns the downtown arena and other venues like the Burton Cummings Theatre — told 680 CJOB it’s not a matter of if, but when.

“We’re working on shows that will come either this fall or into the new year, but also still playing air traffic controller, trying to get the shows that we’ve got on the books — like Celine Dion, like James Taylor — to find a date that’s comfortable to them and their promoters and whatnot to come back to Canada and come back to Winnipeg in particular,” said Donnelly.

“I think the vaccine campaign is a success — we’re getting jabs in our arms, and (Dr. Brent) Roussin and others are talking about when we can start to re-engage in these activities.

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“We are ready, we are waiting, and people need to continue to get the vaccine. We’re looking forward to gathering in mass groups and having fun.”

Read more: Rage Against the Machine postpones reunion gigs over coronavirus

Donnelly said the team at True North is ready to improvise on short notice, depending on when restrictions get lifted, and that doesn’t only extend to the indoor arena or theatre.

“Outdoors does seem to pose less risk of transmission than inside,” he said.

“If we were given the indication that we could do stuff — there’s True North Square, there’s the street in front of the Burt where we had the BBQ & Blues Festival before, there’s Shaw Park, which is a great facility…. I would pull the trigger on whatever I could try to create and still try to pull off some events this summer.”

For now, Donnelly urges patience, and said he’s happy to see many concertgoers holding onto tickets for postponed shows in the hopes the gigs will come back.

“The patience people have expressed already — they’re hanging onto these tickets,” he said.

“Rage Against the Machine is an example of a band that’s been around for 25 years, but have never come to Winnipeg. They’re coming — we’re working on the when.

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“They have a commitment to come here…. The fans don’t care when as long as they’re coming.”

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