Ten hours of music. Eight bands. Over 5,000 fans. Savage Arena was alive once again with the sounds of guitar solos, cymbal crashes and passionate singing. Last Saturday’s Rock the Arena Concert left an impressionable mark as the first of many to come in the new Savage Live Concert Series.
The new concert series is the brainchild of the University of Toledo’s assistant athletic director of finance, Tony Zaworski. He said that when he transferred to the athletic department, he was curious as to why UT didn’t hold concerts anymore.
“The response I got back then was, with the Huntington Center being built and we redid the arena, it’s a new layout, it’s a new industry,” Zaworski said. “It’s like we were shut out of the industry.”
He said they would receive calls from smaller bands and acts inquiring about performing at Savage Arena, but they weren’t gaining the same coverage as the Huntington Center. But Zaworski never let the idea go.
“I kinda started planting seeds with Mr. O’Brien and saying we would at least like to take a look at this,” Zaworski said. “We’re like, ‘OK, let’s take a look and see what we can do.’”
With the help of PR professional Melissa Summers and her company, Rise Above Media Solutions, Zaworski started planning this concert. He said UT President Sharon Gaber and the new administration have been helpful in pushing for new events and activities to come to campus.
The concert lineup included classic bands from the rock genre, singing a combination of their top hits and recent releases. From headliner and former Poison lead singer Bret Michaels to RATT, Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, Dokken, Trixter and “Queen of Metal” Lita Ford, Rock the Arena filled the dreams of many rock fans. Zaworski said that Summers has been instrumental in bringing the bands to UT.
“It’s been hugely a collaborative effort to the point where we weren’t sure if we really wanted to be in the concert business, to Dr. Gaber being really excited about bringing more stuff to campus,” Zaworski said.
According to Zaworski, past concerts at Savage Arena have been organized entirely by outside companies and they rented the venue. This time, the athletic department is taking on the responsibility themselves.
“It sold out three different times,” Zaworski said. “Each time we released tickets, they sold out within a matter of days. The 90s event, which is coming in August, is sold out except for our premium seats and those will sell out, no problem. It’s been amazing. The best thing for us is that this thing goes very smoothly and then it really helps to build the reputation of us, of Savage Arena, as a venue again.”
Zaworski said that he hopes that this concert is just a starting place for bringing more contemporary bands to UT.
“We have feelers out all the time,” Zaworski said. “It was a lot of swings and misses. We had offers out for a number of contemporary country acts. We were putting feelers out for people like Twenty One Pilots. The great thing is that now, people are coming to us with ideas. You’re going to see that we’re going to be very aggressive in who we pursue.”
Zach Harig, a second-year communication major and sportscaster on the campus radio station, attended the rock concert with his parents and their large group of friends. Harig said he grew up listening to these bands.
“When I was eight years old, I found one of my dad’s old Firehouse CDs and fell asleep to that CD every single night,” he said. “This is my first time seeing them live, so it’s been awesome.”
Even though he is a huge country music fan now, Harig says it’s great to hear the music he grew up with.
“I just love any concert that comes to UT because it’s with my fellow students and we can all talk about the memories we made there,” Harig said.
Harig was one of 200 students who purchased tickets to the event. In total, 5,000 tickets were sold. Zaworski said the amount of student tickets was tripled for the next concert in the series, titled “I Love the 90s.”
“My mom is a fan of Bret and I love listening to music live,” said Alex Coates, a first-year student double-majoring in astrophysics and applied mathematics who attended the concert with her mother. “I heard a lot of Bret’s music when I was younger because of my mom.”
Coates says she is excited for future concerts. There are many bands she’d like to see come to Savage, including Panic! At the Disco and Family Force Five.
Zaworski is already looking forward to the future of the concert series.
“It would be a wonderful thing to be able to take the success here and hopefully be able to translate it into a summer concert there,” Zaworski said. “It would be ambitious, but we think there is a lot of potential out there. We want to get something that appeals to you, to the administrator on the floor, or Joe Brown in the community. We just want people to come and have a good time and see the venue.”