Longtime Greenville observers shake their heads when they compare the entertainment venues 20 or so years ago to the array of options available today. Once, the aged Memorial Auditorium was the only choice with its 5,500 seats for basketball, concerts and Monday night wrestling.
For large-audience acts, the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, with capacity ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 seats, is the prime site. "We offer diverse entertainment to residents of the Upstate and Upstate visitors," says Beth Paul, Bon Secours' general manager. "From different music to the circus, WWE (professional wrestling), the Harlem Globetrotters, the Swamp Rabbits (minor league ice hockey), we offer good family entertainment.
The arena has welcomed The Eagles, Elton John, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney and other big-name acts. "Holiday on Ice" and monster truck rallies are part of the annual schedule, and Greenville has always been a strong market for professional wrestling. Sportswise, Bon Secours hosts the East Coast Hockey League's Swamp Rabbits (formerly the Road Warriors).
While Bon Secours, on East North Street and near the Hyatt Regency, forms the north end of Greenville's bustling Main Street, the Peace Center is a halfway point between the arena and Fluor Field in the West End. Its six-acre "campus" next to the Reedy River, across Main from Falls Park on the Reedy, is a focal point of the city's downtown renaissance.
On any given evening, the Peace Center's 2,115-seat concert hall might be offering the Greenville Symphony, the S.C. Children's Theater, the Carolina Ballet Theater or - its primary stock in trade - a performance straight from Broadway. Other acts drawing enthusiastic crowds have included comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Ron "Tater Salad" White, pop musicians Earth, Wind & Fire and Ringo Starr, jazz artist Diana Krall and even rock/blues legend Bob Dylan.
The more intimate 400-seat Gunter Theatre and the 1,200-seat TD Stage outdoors mean there's always a place for shows large and small; the Peace Center averages 200 event nights a year. A not-for-profit entity that receives no government funding, the Peace Center also plays host to the Governor's School for the Arts & Humanities, stages youth concerts and shows for school children, and offers salsa lessons during the summer on its TD Plaza.