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On with the show
The Dallas Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE – NextStage, the new midsized arena in Grand Prairie, learned the old saw on opening night that if you build it, they'll come. Its inaugural event, a concert by Latin pop singer Luis Miguel, drew a sold-out crowd of more than 6,000 people.

Now the arena's next lesson is clear: how to get the customers efficiently from their cars to their seats.

Parking was the biggest hang-up. Recent bad weather prevented the closest parking lot from being finished. (A tractor was still in action during opening ceremonies with Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England.) Many concertgoers were relegated to a remote lot.

Unfortunately, there were only two shuttle buses working the route from the lot to the arena. Rather than wait for the shuttle to return, most people went ahead and made the 10-minute walk – many quite willingly, despite the blustery weather. Some young women even made the walk without jackets.

"We've gotta get more parking – that's obvious," said a NextStage employee.

Once inside, attendees such as Kelly Doster expressed their appreciation for the new venue's atmosphere and amenities.

"This place is awesome – it'd be nice if we had one of these places up in Frisco," Mr. Doster said, sharing sausage with onions and cheese fries with his wife, Chony.

Others voiced approval of the upscale beers and the open- alcohol policy.

"I can take this to my seat," said Eric Daimer, hoisting his drink.

But many – the hardcore fans of Mr. Miguel, mostly – were unaware that this was NextStage's opening night.

"I hadn't even heard about it," said Yaneth Maciel of Fort Worth, who was there with sister Yessica Chavez. "We're here to see Luis Miguel – we've been fans for a long time."

The arena has a grandeur that establishes itself as soon as you approach. To get inside, you first climb a set of stairs. Oddly, this is also the place where security staffers check bags. At the top of the stairs are ticket windows and entry.

Even inside the place, traffic flow was still a work in progress. As people began to knot up the entries, NextStage staffers could be seen moving some of the luxurious leather banquettes away from the area, to be replaced by temporary ropes that helped contain the crowd.

Ticket takers were also momentarily boggled by the high-tech scanning devices, which looked like mutated PalmPilots. Some weren't scanning efficiently. But these snafus were minor.

The final snag had nothing to do with opening-night jitters: Mr. Miguel reportedly got stuck in traffic and ended up arriving at the arena with a police escort. Flanked by two motorcycles and a van, his limousine could be seen pulling into the arena's backstage area at 9:05 p.m. – more than an hour after the official 8 p.m. showtime.

"For Luis Miguel, 60 minutes late is about normal," one young concertgoer said.