The Dos Equis Pavilion has had many names, and while all of them might not have rolled off the tongue, there’s the possibility the names could have been something much worse. There’s the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, the Taco Bell Arena in Idaho and the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky. If there’s a sponsor willing to give its money, more than enough people are ready to take it. Not that it necessarily changes anyone’s view of the concert; if the Beatles magically reunited tomorrow, you wouldn’t hesitate to enter Black Flag Roach Motel Arena to see them.
Each name that the Starplex Amphitheatre has taken on, and there have been many, adds another layer to the history of this now 30-year-old structure. The names, the brands they represent, and the city’s reaction to them provides a snapshot of the culture that existed during those times. Think about what your first concert was at Dos Equis Pavilion as we look back on the many names the amphitheater had.
1988 – 1998 Coca-Cola Starplex Amphitheatre
The one that started it all. It helps that Coca-Cola is considered one of the most recognizable and loved brands in the country. Change the name to another soda like, Dr. Thunder, and now you have a venue only suitable for cover bands. Instead, in its maiden year, it attracted national acts such as the Moody Blues, Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton.
It was a big deal at this time to have such a large venue to attract large musical acts, alongside the dollars that come with them, to Dallas. No hippies were spouting things about global warming in 1988, so the sadists that made a mostly outdoor arena in Texas probably saw this as a way to save a few bucks by not making a complete roof.
1999 Starplex Amphitheatre
After Coca-Cola packed up its name and left, the venue remained simply the Starplex Amphitheatre for a year. There was some interest from sponsors about adding their company name to the amphitheater, but nothing gelled for 365 days worth of concerts that included Dave Matthews Band, Sammy Hagar and Journey.
The popular theory during this chunk of time was the amphitheater wasn’t really interested in any serious sponsors, rather wanting a year to get to know itself and grow.
2000 – 2007 Smirnoff Music Centre and The Music Centre at Fair Park (for concerts featuring underage performers)
There was a fair amount of controversy surrounding the name when Smirnoff bought the naming rights for a eight-year window at the low cost of $6 million. So much stress was built around the name that it was changed from Smirnoff Music Centre to The Music Centre at Fair Park when there were concerts featuring underage performers. This was similar to what the amphitheater had to do when they were named Superpages.com and changed the name to Pages when musical acts performed there that didn’t believe in phones.
Smirnoff caught so much hell about naming a music venue that sells alcohol after an alcohol that a member of the Dallas City Council guilted the vodka company into donating an additional $3.8 to Dallas community projects. If you ever thought Smirnoff Ice tastes watered down, this is probably why.
In a certain form of twisted logic this makes sense. You can’t very well take the kids to see the Wiggles at a place named after a vodka. They’re going to ask questions; you’re going to give them answers; and now they’ll know what your breath smells like every morning when you take them to school.
2008 – 2010 Superpages.com Center
After Smirnoff spent more money than they ever probably planned to, the next name chosen was considerably safer — and longer. Superpages.com Center was the official name, but most concertgoers called it by the shorter name of, “Something about the internet park? I don’t know, I can’t keep up with this. The one at Fair Park.”
Superpages.com officials admitted it was lengthy but also stressed the importance of having the .com in the name, saying the product needed to be clearly known. Confusion about the product was probably common, what with superpages.com being basically an extra step to finding something, like searching Google.com before just typing in the thing you were trying to find.
2011 – 2017 Gexa Energy Pavilion
Once Superpages.com’s naming rights expired, Houston-based Gexa Energy took over the honor, signing a multi-year deal with Live Nation. Gexa was a good fit at the time — not nearly as scandalous as Smirnoff and easier to say than Superpages.com.
It was during this time that the pavilion was almost torn down. In 2014 Dallas was looking at new options for venues, weighing the costs and benefits of moving forward on a long talked about renovation or building a new location that would result in the demolition of the old one.
Even more harmful during this era, chef/walking punchline Guy Fieri had a burger stand at the pavilion called Guy’s Burger Joint. The stand sold $14 burgers that could be optionally topped with Fieri’s “Donkey Sauce.”
2017 – 2018 Starplex Pavilion
In January 2017 the sponsorship deal with Gexa expired and the pavilion came back full circle to where it mostly started, reverting to the Starplex name. For people who had never stopped calling it the Starplex, this was a rare moment of stubbornness paying off.
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On May 4, 2017, the pavilion hosted the Kings of Leon and showed off its $8 million worth of renovations. This included a complete swap for all the covered seats, updating all the light fixtures and hiring a hazmat team to permanently remove any remaining trace of Donkey Sauce.
In the end, the Dallas covered most of that $8 million. Live Nation fronted the cash for the expenditure but charged the city in monthly rent until the final number the concert promoter plunked in was $1.5 million.
2018 – ? Dos Equis Pavilion
In April it looked like Live Nation wasn’t making enough money calling it Starplex, so they partnered up with Heineken USA to establish new naming rights. Now the reason it’s not called Heineken Pavilion is because Heineken felt their Dos Equis brand was perfect for the Starplex as it was located in a central Dos Equis market. That line of thinking is pretty close to changing Yankee Stadium to Anger Management Classes Park because it’s in the heart of a central rage market.
While the partnership is new, it does seem to be working. No word yet on if they have to change the name to Fruit Slices in a Cup Pavilion when Sesame Street Live does their next show.