Revenue / 02.12.24
Going From a Sports Venue to a Concert Arena and Back Again
Have you ever been to your favorite football stadium, ballpark or basketball arena for a concert and thought, “Huh? I am sitting on the 40-yard line … or the first base side … or behind the basket.” It’s a weird feeling that one usually gets over fairly quick when the singer or group hits the stage and starts performing. We spoke with three INTIX professionals who have sports venues that also double as concert spaces about what goes into hosting both types of events.
Obviously, musical acts like Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Coldplay benefit from the large number of seats that such venues provide. But besides that, what are a couple of the key ingredients/factors for a sports stadium/ballpark to also have for a good concert venue? Jeff Hecker, Vice President of Ticket Operations for the New York Jets, listed a couple. The first was tailgating. Speaking of his and the Jets’ MetLife Stadium: “Unlike other venues, you still get the ‘football vibe’ of being able to set up in the parking lot, hang with friends, eat, drink, listen to music, etc.”
Also, there is production value. “Most acts playing stadiums take advantage of the larger footprint and bigger gross to provide the audience that extra ‘it factor,’” Hecker says. “Often its pyrotechnics … [but] an entire separate stage in the middle of the field is something most acts do now as well.”
Daren Mitch, Vice President of Ticket Operations for the Phoenix Suns, adds, “A key factor that would elevate a venue would be team assets that will help promote the show. An established team that could provide additional advertising via broadcasting, a large email database, in-game signage and announcements can provide a tour with valuable added show promotion.”
He also noted that not just the number of seats, but the quality of seating options, such as those provided by The Suns’ Footprint Center, can positively contribute to the fan experience. Venues with club options, VIP areas and more have indeed proved to be significantly more marketable than venues missing some of those unique offerings.
On the flipside, there are potential negatives that can hinder a stadium/ballpark/sports arena from also doubling as a concert venue. According to Anthony Esposito, Senior Vice President of Ticket Operations for the Atlanta Braves, two of the biggest are finances and attitude.
Speaking of Atlanta and Truist Park, he says, “In a city where there are a few other options to bring a big concert to, you have to make sure that you are able to offer the best financial package possible for the promoter. This could mean anything from giving up portions of your cut on the per ticket fees to financial incentives based on a variety of thresholds with number of tickets sold.”
He continues, “As far as attitude goes, this applies to the venue staff to make sure that they are able to work in a high-stress and fast-paced environment with getting staging in, set up, broken down and out in a tight timeframe between homestands. If you get a reputation for being difficult to work with, then you will have a difficult time securing any tours.”
Mitch concurs, adding, “Taking the venue specifics out of the equation, having a ‘yes’ team attitude often solidifies repeat bookings. Tours value the teamwork philosophy for the short time they visit your venue. It’s important to facilitate a culture of working as a team toward a common goal of success for both the venue and the tour. Poor ‘merch’ deals and execution can also prove to be a huge negative when it comes to attracting tours. While the venue doesn’t see as much of a return on the merchandise side of the concert, it is a significant revenue stream for the tour. Ensuring a solid focus has been placed on the execution of the merchandise plan can solidify a positive outcome when bidding on a show.”
In terms of on-site logistics, Hecker notes that a stadium’s egress and ingress can pose potential problems. He says, “Large crowds mean lots of traffic — both coming and, especially, leaving the venue at the exact same time.” He adds that sound issues can also be a minus, as some acts don’t prepare production well for the larger space, especially a venue like MetLife Stadium that is open air.
Esposito asks, “Can the volume clearly travel up to the last row of seats in the corner of the 400 level?”
As a long-time audience member, I have often wondered when transitioning over temporarily to a concert, what goes into protecting the field and the “integrity” of the playing space for the home team. Esposito praises Ed Mangan, the Braves’ head groundskeeper, who has had a long and storied career in the turf business. Mangan also moonlights with the NFL as a Field Director for the Super Bowl.
“So, he is familiar with getting stages on and off of the field in an orderly fashion while also maintaining the integrity of the playing surface,” Esposito says. “Our baseball field will ultimately be completely covered in Terraplas by the time the doors open, but this covering happens in stages. The majority of it goes down beginning the night before the concert. Once it is down, the chair crew comes in and starts placing the field seats — typically around 6 a.m. on the day of the show. Once the show ends at 11 p.m., the chairs are immediately folded up and removed from the field so that the process of pulling up the Terraplas can begin. The chairs are usually gone by midnight, and all of the Terraplas is pulled up and moved off of the field by mid-morning so that the field can begin being prepped for the next game. We typically try to have a two-day buffer built in on the back end of the concert before our next game happens.”
Fortunately, the Suns don’t have much of a problem in this regard. “Our floor is completely transformable,” Mitch says. “On any given week, we could have a Suns game, concert and arena football game in a three-day span. It’s still amazing to me how the conversion team has mastered the switchovers to a science.”
So, when all is said and done, all three INTIX pros interviewed for this article said the real thrill is being able to enjoy the concerts — at least parts of them — themselves. Does each have a favorite? All three turned into fans immediately upon being asked. Hecker says, “Easy question to answer for those that know me! Paul McCartney, my favorite performer ever. I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of concerts in my lifetime. Nothing is like a McCartney show!”
According to Mitch, “I’ve been blessed to have witnessed so many amazing shows come through my venue. If I had to pick one as my all-time favorite, it would have to be Elton John and Billy Joel. Seeing these two legends perform together was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has stuck with me over the years.”
Esposito concludes, “Having had my formative and pre-teen years cover the 1980s decade, I was personally very excited when we had Metallica in 2017 and Def Leppard in 2018, 2022 and appearing again this July. I saw Metallica for the first time at the mud-filled Woodstock ’94, then again a few times since. It was great to have them at my workplace for our second-ever concert at Truist Park in July 2017. And with Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’ album being one of the greatest pieces of musical genius ever produced — please tell me otherwise! — it is always great to see them in concert and hear so many of their classics live and in person.”
Truist Park setting up for Def Leppard.
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Tags: Revenue , Sports Venues