Sunday, October 21, 2007 Country superstar Garth Brooks will perform nine concerts next month as part of the grand opening celebration of the Sprint Center in Kansas City. It took the new arena -- which officially opened Oct. 13 with a sold-out Elton John show -- less than two hours to sell all 159,775 tickets to the Brooks shows, set for Nov. 5-12 and Nov. 14. But six months after tickets went on sale for New Jersey's own Bon Jovi's 10-night opening stand at Prudential Center in Newark, thousands of seats are still available. That's the unpredictable nature of the concert business, where sure things are never as solid as they appear. In fact, just two of six arenas opened since 2000 sold out the inaugural shows -- and none of them was a 10-night stand. "Bon Jovi, in New Jersey, in a brand-new arena. On paper that looks like a no-brainer," said Ray Waddell, senior editor at Billboard magazine. "Looks like a home run." Turns out that's not the case. None of the 10 shows has sold out, although at least 140,000 seats have been sold for the run, according to AEG Live, the concert promoter. However, at press time, the Ticketmaster Web site showed blocks of four tickets can be purchased for every concert, including floor seats and those in the lower level. Debra Rathwell, senior vice president for AEG Live, said there are between 14,000 and 15,000 tickets being sold to each show. In addition, the Prudential Center has some 1,500 seats in its 76 luxury boxes, bring the total closer to 16,500 per show. That's still well below the arena's stated concert capacity of 19,500. Rathwell said the band determined the lengthy run. "Ten was what they wanted to do, and we went for it," she said. The concerts, which run Oct. 25, 26, 28, 30, Nov. 1, 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10, support the band's new album "Lost Highway," released in June. Opening acts include My Chemical Romance, Gretchen Wilson, Daughtry, Big and Rich and the All American Rejects. There are several reasons for the availability. The arena, and its host city, are unfamiliar to concertgoers. Tickets went on sale in April, perhaps too far away from the actual performances. The top single-ticket price for the stand is $303, and $1,000 VIP packages are also being offered, which include a signed poster, a $100 gift certificate to merchandise on the band's Web site, and access to the side stage during the show. Other tickets range from $128 to $49. Bon Jovi isn't alone in failing to sell out grand-opening concerts. Six arenas have opened around the country in the last seven years, and only two of them -- Kansas City and Columbus -- have enjoyed sell-out status. (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill performed two shows in Columbus is 2000.) The Rolling Stones did not sell out when they opened the Charlotte Bobcats Arena in 2005. Fleetwood Mac failed to sell out when it christened the Toyota Center in Houston in 2003, and Barenaked Ladies came up short when opening the St. Paul arena in 2000. Demand for Brooks' Kansas City shows was likely higher due to the fact they're the first concerts he's performed in nine years. In Newark, the lack of a track record, and concerns about traffic, parking and safety, may have slowed the rush to buy, but that goes against the trend. "Historically the curiosity factor outweighs the fear of the unknown," said Billboard's Waddell. The early sale of tickets might have hurt, too. Ticketmaster launched the sale in April, more than six months ahead of the stand. Rathwell, however, says the trend in concerts is earlier is better for ticket sales, and the four weeks before the show on-sale model is fading. All 10 shows were put on sale that day, with a second group of five being added before any of the first five hit capacity. "We sell three shows at a time and add shows as they sell out," said George Zoffinger, chief executive of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the state agency that runs Continental Airlines Arena. "We found that's the best way to judge consumer demand." And then there's the cost of the tickets. The top ticket of $303 is more than double the $127 price for Bon Jovi's three 2006 concerts at Giants Stadium. Those three shows sold more than 150,000. On Bruce Springsteen's current tour, which included two sold-out shows at Continental earlier this month, tickets were priced at $98 and $68. For this season's other major tour, the Police, tickets ranged from $50 to $250. Rathwell said a few thousand seats were added for each show a few weeks ago, after Bon Jovi agreed to allow people to sit behind the stage. Adjustments for technical issues -- sight lines and equipment, for example -- continue. "Seats are still going in, they are getting placed," she said. "When it's a new building, you have to adapt as it goes along."