Just moments after she blew a quick series of kisses to the crowd at the end of her Super Bowl 50 halftime-show performance, promoter Live Nation’s press release blew into thousands of journalists’ in boxes, bearing this subject line:
“BEYONCÉ ANNOUNCES THE FORMATION WORLD TOUR.”
Any hope, however, that the pop megastar would include the home city of the Carolina Panthers? Quashed.
“Beyoncé” – stated the email, which was tailored for N.C. and S.C. recipients – “will play...” – wait for it... wait for it... – “...Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh on May 3.”
Charlotteans interested in the topic probably had several initial reactions and/or questions: 1. Wow, a stadium tour! 2. Shoot, I wish she’d picked Charlotte. 3 (if they’ve really been paying attention) Wait, didn’t the Rolling Stones also pick Raleigh’s stadium over Charlotte’s last year?
And finally, 4. Seriously, why doesn’t Bank of America Stadium have more concerts??
But if the move came as a surprise to anyone in town, it probably shouldn’t have. Since opening as Ericsson Stadium in September of 1996, the mountain of glass, steel and concrete on Mint Street has hosted a total of two concerts.
The Rolling Stones in 1997, and Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw in 2012. That’s it.
So, to address your collective curiosities, I called Scott Paul – director of stadium operations for the Carolina Panthers – and asked the “Why?” question. Here are the bullet points from our conversation:
▪ “There just aren’t very many acts that can fill a stadium,” Paul said. And this is very true. In 2016, the list of artists doing stadium shows is shorter than the list of presidential candidates. On it: Beyoncé, Chesney, Coldplay and Luke Bryan. (Beyoncé’s and Coldplay’s are the only exclusively stadium-focused tours; both Bryan and Chesney are also doing amphitheater dates, including Charlotte’s PNC Music Pavilion.) This, of course, greatly limits options from the outset.
▪ “It’s very expensive to do a stadium event versus going to a place that has a stage built in, lighting built in, like PNC,” Paul said. In 2014, Billboard reported that the non-talent costs of producing a stadium show run $1.2 million to $1.8 million – nearly triple those of an arena show. So when ticket sales are underwhelming, losses can be substantial. The Chesney/McGraw show on June 24, 2012 was considered a disappointment, Paul said, with only about 35,000 of about 50,000 available seats filled.
▪ “Our window of opportunity for concerts is very, very small,” Paul said. From mid-August through December, the football team obviously is given priority in the building. From January through March, the weather is too iffy for promoters; Chesney’s first stadium date is April 23 in Auburn, Ala., Beyoncé’s is April 27 in Miami. Bank of America Stadium also has booked three well-attended soccer matches in the past two summers.
▪ “We’re in the business of football, and that’s what we want to do,” Paul said. The Panthers would consider something during the football season – they hosted the Stones Oct. 10, 1997, between a Sept. 29 game against the 49ers and an Oct. 26 game against the Falcons – “but the likelihood of us doing something in football season is very, very small.” The Stones’ show was a sellout, with about 52,000 in attendance.
▪ “The field’s too important to us,” Paul said. “The promoters will tell you that they’ll protect the field, and they do... but there are typically issues that we see six months later.” After the stadium hosted Chesney and McGraw, Paul said it experienced “tremendous damage to the field ... through that whole year,” including “compaction issues around the perimeter of the field from load in and load out of staging.” He added: “You don’t ever get compensated for the work you have to do six months down the road.”Though Fred Demarest, associate athletics director for communications and marketing at N.C. State, said that when it comes to the use of Carter-Finley Stadium, “We build components for damage and repairs into our contracts.”)
▪ Even things like parking spaces – or, in the Panthers’ case, lack of them – can play into the equation, Paul said. “If you look at a lot of these stadiums that do concerts around the country, the great majority of them have 10 to 20,000 parking spaces that really help with the financial model in doing a concert, with a promoter that wants a piece of everything.” In other words: “You might be able to share some parking revenue ... and maybe take less on a use fee. But we don’t have that opportunity here.”
▪ And in considering Beyoncé’s tour, there was an additional issue, Paul said. “I did have a conversation with a promoter about Beyoncé. ... But we’ve got challenges with stadium construction. We’re in the third year of a five-year renovation. Right now, we’ve got every one of our concession stands on the 500 level gutted. Beyoncé was within the window of construction, and we would have had to have been very creative to service the upper level.” The stadium started construction on Jan. 25; Beyoncé’s Raleigh show is May 3; the team is targeting July 19 as the project’s completion date.
“We’re open to looking at anything,” Paul said. “But we’re investing millions of dollars into our facility, and in order to open those doors up to somebody, it’s got to make sense for us.”
This all makes sense to me. And yet at the same time, selfishly – as a big fan of big concerts (and as a fan of Beyoncé) – I do wish concerts made sense for Bank of America Stadium just a little bit more often.