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Scott Mullen proudly points to a 2022 calendar chock-full of events at Moline’s TaxSlayer Center. The local arena’s executive director, in his 18th year, said recently he only had three open weekends to offer to promoters before Mother’s Day in early May. “And one empty weekend (Jan. 14-15) was because the rodeo moved from January to April,” Mr. Mullen said. “So, there’s a lot going on here and our (sports) teams are a big part of it.” The Quad Cities minor league clubs calling the TaxSlayer home – hockey’s Storm and indoor football’s Steamwheelers – were unable to play during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The State of Illinois banned large gatherings from mid-March 2020 until July 2021, when the TaxSlayer was allowed again to offer ticketed events to the public. That cost the Storm the 2020-21 season – as well as the final six home games of the 2019-20 campaign. While the last two seasons for the ‘Wheelers consisted only of their 2020 road opener before COVID canceled the remainder of that season’s slate. The Storm is nearly three-quarters of the way through its current 28-game home schedule at the TaxSlayer. The ‘Wheelers open an eight-game 2022 home campaign on Friday, March 18. “It’s great to have teams here not only for the community entertainment, but to increase the number of events (at the arena) so that we can maintain regular hours for our part-time employees,” Mr. Mullen said. “That consistency is so important right now when it’s so hard to find part-time employees anywhere. Hockey gives us another 28 nights a year that we have events so that people can work. That can be a difference maker for some people when they’re trying to choose a job.” Mr. Mullen said the minor league clubs also add value to the arena’s suites and sponsorships, besides offering a community identity to people outside the area from having seen the hometown teams playing all over the country. “These teams also help local companies attract talent to come here because of the quality of life and the range of things to do,” Mr. Mullen said. “It’s also great for the community because the economic impact the teams bring is significant. And it’s great to see the City of Moline... trying to make sure that both of our teams are supported,” he said, adding “Everybody is working in the same direction.” To ensure the safest environment possible for both the teams and spectators, the TaxSlayer uses an electrostatic spray on seating areas, and has staffers “constantly wiping things down,” Mr. Mullen said. COVID precautions also include a “no bag policy” and walk-through magnetometers to avoid security pat downs at the entrances. Additionally, mobile ordering and cashless concessions minimizes congestion on the concourse and in the lobby. “You can sit in your seat and order something and get a push notification on your cell phone when it’s ready for pick up, so you don’t stand in a concession line,” Mr. Mullen said. Besides local pro sports, the TaxSlayer’s 2022 events so far include ventriloquist comedian Jeff Dunham (Feb. 26); WWE Road to Wrestlemania (March 20); the Missouri Valley Conference’s Women’s Basketball Tournament (March 10-13); and the World’s Toughest Rodeo (April 2-3). The music concerts booked range from Santana (April 15) to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (April 9), as well as Jojo Siwa (Feb. 4), Tool (March 17), KORN (March 25) and One Night of Queen (March 19). Each artist or entity offers different COVID protocols the venue needs to accommodate, Mr. Mullen said. Both the Frankie Valli and Jojo Siwa shows are rescheduled dates from 2021 postponements. “A lot of the bigger tours are hedging their bets because it costs so much to put them on the road,” Mr. Mullen said. “So, they are pushing back, moving and moving again, just kicking it down the road because of the Omicron variant. “In terms of concerts across the country, in all my conversations and conference calls with other building managers everybody is looking at about a 20% no-show rate at concerts on average and it’s because people aren’t comfortable, which is why a lot of the shows have moved. “But we’re picking up some other shows and we’ve got a lot of stuff on sale. Things are going pretty well, and I think we’re through the worst of it and it’s only going to get better. Once we get through the next month -- knock on wood – we should be back to as close to normal as we’re going to get.”