CUSTOM CONFIGURATIONS: A convertible wall system allows The Factory in St. Louis to expand from 900 reserved seats to 3,500 seats for general admission shows. (courtesy place)
Venue Anchors Entertainment Center
Size matters at The Factory in St. Louis, Missouri.
The $23 million live entertainment facility was designed with a convertible wall system to provide custom and scalable options ranging from 900 reserved seats to a 3,500-seat general admission floor.
St. Louis native Dan Merker has been the talent buyer for The Factory since it opened in July 2021 as the cornerstone of The District, a budding entertainment and sports center in what was a former strip mall. 20 minutes west of downtown St. Louis. The district is being developed by the Staenberg group, which is linked to 200 shopping centers and 2,000 restaurants.
“We took the pros and cons of every building we visited and built it from the ground up with that in mind,” Merker said. “In a market like St. Louis, you’re not going to have the lights on every night with a capacity of 3,500, so we thought, ‘How can we design this as a PAC with fully reserved seating but also open floor and reserved balcony?’”
Over the past year, The Factory has played a vital role in attracting live music by offering a flexible setup with equally nimble centered sound anchored by a K2 audio system from L-Acoustics.
The factory is a viable option for a variety of artists with the potential to build an audience in a market of 2.8 million and expand available space.
The venue opened last year with EDM artist Deadmau5, followed by a varied list of concerts, comedy shows and mixed martial arts events. It hosts shows with Olivia Rodrigo, jazz/hip-hop group The Roots, blues guitarist Buddy Guy and alt-pop group Glass Animals. Later that year, multi-platinum pop-punk band Paramore (October 11) play The Factory.
Adjusting space based on ticket sales has its benefits. The convertible wall system features fully welded panel frames that use heavy steel with soundproof acoustic skins and rubber bumpers on the bottom. Site officials say it takes about 15 minutes to set up by a team of four to six people. The system is used several times a month.
Having multiple configurations means The Factory can add space when sales exceed expectations. Merker said over the past year they haven’t reduced capacity.
“I appreciate it,” said Merker, whose career included stints with Outback Presents, HUKA Entertainment, Tortuga Music Festival and Hangout Music Festival.
“It’s fun in a talent buyer’s world now,” he said. “You could go back 15 years ago and a lot of things had been predicted, based on the radio and there really wasn’t a lot of ticket data on how an artist had done in the past. Now you have more measurable data, social media, Spotify, and box office history that buyers can find.You have a better idea of what an artist will do in the market.
Merker books most shows in-house, but also works with AEG, SaveLive, Disco Donnie Productions and Live Nation. “For me, it’s more about putting the right artist in the right room, where they belong,” he said.
“I got to see (The Factory) with my own eyes on Randy Houser’s flagship tour last spring,” said WME Nashville co-manager Greg Oswald. “New, modern, thoughtful, airy, easy to load, and sounding great. The staff were above it all. Artist and fan-friendly in every way. The crowd rocked and they were at ease. Cheap, good building and good operators.
Bookings across multiple genres, including country, rock and contemporary, continue with dates booked in fall 2023.
“This would never have happened before COVID,” Merker said. “Agents take more time to plan ahead. Some of them have to do with difficulties in finding bus drivers, trucks, tourist buses and a shortage of production equipment. (The pandemic) just sent us this big box of new unknown variables. Slowly we discover the path and we adapt.
The benefit of opening in 2021 has been the impact on staff. “It was definitely a blessing,” Merker said. “When we hired staff for all the positions on site, there were a lot of people out of work with a lot of industry experience. For the most part, we have overqualified staff.
Free parking and mobile technology with the Rooam app to order refreshments from their seat make the venue popular with fans.
“That’s been a really nice thing with the scalability of the site,” Merker said. “We can reserve genres for everyone in St. Louis, whether it’s classic rock, EDM, R&B, kids’ shows and metal; we can literally do something for everyone.