Better known for hosting conventions, graduation ceremonies, kids' shows and sporting events, the Westchester County Center is set to stage performances by big-name attractions including the Beach Boys, Boston, and Whoopi Goldberg this year, thanks in part to a new promoter and recent sound-related modifications to the facility.
Acoustic anomalies and competition from regional venues made it difficult to program music and comedy performances at the County Center, said Peter Tartaglia, the deputy commissioner for Westchester County Parks, Recreation and Conservation. But earlier this year, the department secured White Plains-based Westchester Media to address the sound issues at the venue and to book and promote more shows that appeal to an adult sensibility. The resulting concert series kicks off May 15 with the Beach Boys.
"We'd been trying to find the right promoter for that building for a long time," Tartaglia said.
While Jimi Hendrix, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, James Brown and Kenny Rogers once headlined shows at the County Center, the upcoming roster of shows might usher in a new renaissance. The Beach Boys' 50th Anniversary Tour will take over the place on May 15. The rock band Boston is slated to make its only New York-area appearance in White Plains on July 22. And the Rock 'n' Blues Fest -- featuring Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter Band, Rick Derringer, Leslie West of Mountain and Savoy Brown's Kim Simmonds -- is set to rock the house Aug. 12.
"There's definitely a new buzz," says Tartaglia, who adds that ticket sales have been brisk. "I mean, the Beach Boys' fans went crazy. People were calling because the Beach Boys' concert was announced a few days after they appeared on the Grammys."
As chief executive of Westchester Media, Irwin Kornfeld worked with Walters-Storyk Design Group, an acoustics design firm based in Highland in Ulster County, to modify the speaker system, reduce echoes and limit "dead spots" in a venue that opened in 1930 and was renovated in 1988.
An aggressive ad campaign for the concert series includes train posters on the Metro-North lines. The events are also being promoted through radio, newspaper and magazine ads, email blasts and social media.
"We're making an investment in advertising and in marketing, because people aren't used to going to the County Center for this kind of event," Kornfeld said.
Kornfeld cites "brisk" concert ticket sales that he believes will yield sold-out performances. Depending on the anticipated ticket sale volume, seating capacity for a concert or comedy show could range between 2,600 and 4,400 or more, according to Kornfeld. "If we pull out the seats from the first floor, we can get up to 5,000 people in the building," he adds.
Tartaglia is equally optimistic about the upcoming performances and their potential impact on future programming.
"This is hopefully the beginning of many, many shows at the County Center," he said.
The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Concert Tour
When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 15
Where: Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave., White Plains, 914-995-4050, www.countycenter.biz; $59.50-$500
Boston in concert
When: 7:30 p.m., Sunday, July 22
The Beach Boys Rock 'n' Blues Fest
Featuring: Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter Band, Rick Derringer, Leslie West of Mountain and Savoy Brown's Kim Simmonds
When: 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 12
Whoopi Goldberg comedy show
When: 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 14