Van Wezel ranked top North American venue for its size

The Van Wezel sits along the bayfront in the city of Sarasota. Photo by Norman Schimmel

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall was ranked the No. 1 Performing Arts Hall in North America in the 2000-seat “top spots” category in the July issue of Venues Today, the industry bible of performance venues, the Van Wezel’s staff has announced.

Executive Director Mary Bensel said in a news release that not only was she thrilled by that honor, but she also was proud of the Van Wezel’s being ranked No. 4 among the top five Florida venues in the 5000-seat category.

The other Florida venues in the 5,000-seat category are the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, the Straz Center in Tampa, Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater and the Bob Carr in Orlando. All of them have more seats and are in larger markets than the Van Wezel, Bensel pointed out, “so we are very proud to be ranked with them.”

The rankings are based on concert and event grosses from Oct. 16, 2011 to May 15.

Twenty performing arts venues were listed in the 2,000-seat category.

The Van Wezel also recently was awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, presented to establishments that consistently achieve exceptional traveler ratings on TripAdvisor and maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, the news release says. The Van Wezel received a 4.5 rating.

Additionally, Bensel pointed out in the release, the Van Wezel once again has not requested a City of Sarasota subsidy. (The city’s new fiscal year will begin Oct. 1.) Instead, the hall will post a surplus to its fund balance, she noted.

Ticket sales for the latest season were about $6.2 million, up from the previous year’s total of approximately $5.5 million. Among the highlights of the 201-12 season were performances by singer Dolly Parton and comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the news release says. The schedule included a myriad of Broadway shows and concerts.

Subscriptions and sponsorships are up for next season, the news release added. For tickets and information, call the Van Wezel box office at 953-3368 or visit