Venue Visit: EPIC defies odds with ambitious approach

Having highlighted Green Bay’s premier ~100-capacity clubs, this column’s third installment heads to Ashwaubenon for a peek into the area’s newest mid-sized music spot.

By Matty Day

The EPIC Event center in Ashwaubenon opened its doors in April 2021.

Perhaps timing isn’t everything.


Conventional wisdom would suggest against opening a live music venue in the midst of a pandemic.


EPIC Event Center, located at 2351 Holmgren Way, opened its doors in April of 2021 when mask mandates, social-distancing and capacity limitation policies were in place. While adding its own extra precautions, EPIC managed a successful first year by bringing in some big-name acts, said Ryan Vander Sanden, EPIC’s entertainment manager.


Cheap Trick, Sevendust, George Thorogood, Buckcherry, Atreyu, Chevelle, Melissa Ethridge, Ice Cube, Stone Temple Pilots, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jackyl and Yngwie Malmsteen were among the prominent names gracing the EPIC stage in 2021.


“There are some music fans in our market, and they are passionate,” said Vander Sanden. “We hear over and over, ‘Green Bay needed a place like this.’”


Vander Sanden said both he and owner Mark Skogen thought the location—which has a vast parking lot, and countless restaurants and hotels nearby—was a perfect fit for what the venue could offer.


Vander Sanden also said the space can host more than 2,000 people, and its wall-to-wall bar and stadium-worthy restrooms spare guests from having to wait in long lines and miss much of the show.


Other ‘epic’ features within the venue include a VIP balcony with its own bar and restrooms, a raised ADA-compliant seating area and an outdoor patio.


Most of the venue is devoted to general admission space; no seating, but plenty of railing for setting down drinks, Vander Sanden said. The large stage and sound system ensure everyone in the room gets the full sonic and visual experience they’re looking for.
The backstage area boasts green rooms comparable to luxury hotel rooms, washers and dryers, a fitness and weightlifting area and for recreation, billiards, darts, shuffleboard, a Golden Tee arcade game and even its own indoor basketball half-court. Vander Sanden said Vanilla Ice and Billy Bob Thornton were among last year’s acts to shoot some pre-show hoops.


“The flipside to making [EPIC] an unbelievable fan experience was making it an unbelievable band experience,” Vander Sanden said. “We try to make it a place where (the bands) really want to come back to. We hope they’re like, ‘Green Bay? We like that place!’”


Corey Taylor (of Slipknot), Smith & Myers (of Shinedown) and Ice Cube were among Vander Sanden’s personal highlights from EPIC’s first year of bookings. He said he’s come a long way since his unintentional foray into booking 15 years ago.


Back then, as co-manager of the Route 15 sports bar in Greenville, between himself and his business partner, Vander Sanden said he gravitated toward booking their live music. He said one day, a beer distributor blew their minds by suggesting he put them in touch with glam-metal stars, L.A. Guns.


“The only thing I’d ever done was book local bands,” Vander Sanden said. “I knew nothing… really, nothing.”


Still, he said he jumped at the chance to book a band whose poster he’d had on his wall as a teen. True to his beer distributor’s word, Vander Sanden said he was able to confirm L.A. Guns would be playing at his sports bar in Greenville. He said he quickly sold all 200 tickets needed to cover the cost of the show, not realizing he’d just enrolled in a crash course on professional booking.


“I cover the cost of the band, thinking they’re going to bring (all their own gear) like local bands do. Three days before the show, I learned I needed to provide backline,” Vander Sanden said, referring to the drums and amplifiers venues typically rent for large touring acts to use. “They don’t travel with backline. And they need hotels, and they have a ‘rider?’ I’m learning what all these things mean.”


He said he paid handsomely for this education, but was still hooked.


“I was just in love with it,” Vander Sanden said. “I didn’t even care. ‘Do I really get to meet them?!’ That was fifteen years ago. I’m still doing it.”


Among the upcoming acts at EPIC Event Center? L.A. Guns.


Other notable acts coming to EPIC in 2022 include Bret Michaels, Jamey Johnson & Randy Houser, Clutch, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ice-T and stand-up comedy shows from Saturday Night Live alumni Jim Breuer and Rob Schneider.


For more information and EPIC’s full schedule, visit their website.


Matty Day has been a gigging musician for 15 years, performing with Cory Chisel, Muddy Udders, the Foamers?, the Priggs, J-Council and more. You can reach Matty via email at [email protected], on Twitter @pollutedmindset or on his website matthewtday.com.

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