SBJ/July 7 - 13, 2003/Facilities

Bruce to boost revenue at ballparks

The five Major League Baseball facilities playing host to Bruce Springsteen concerts in the coming months expect to profit from additional revenue gained from rental fees, concessions and parking at sold-out shows, ballpark officials said.

PNC Park in Pittsburgh (Aug. 6) and Fenway Park in Boston (Sept. 6-7) are making history of sorts in booking their first full-fledged rock concerts. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago (Aug. 13); Comerica Park, Detroit (Sept. 21); and Miller Park, Milwaukee (Sept. 27) have experience with stadium shows.

With the exception of Olympia Entertainment in Detroit, owned by Tigers CEO Mike Ilitch, which booked Springsteen in-house, the teams themselves do not receive a percentage of ticket sales. That money will be split between the artist and outside event promoters.

But club and concessionaire representatives said concerts are still lucrative in terms of food, beverage and merchandise sales. Tom Olson, on-site GM with Sportservice at Miller Park, said per-capita sales could approach $20 for food and drink and $10-$20 for retail, which were numbers recorded for the 2001 George Strait Country Music Festival in Milwaukee.

"I expect more of an adult crowd, 30 to 60 years old, and I think it's going to be a well-behaved crowd," Olson said. "We'll see how the other [Sportservice-contracted] parks in Philadelphia and Chicago do," alluding to Lincoln Financial Field and U.S. Cellular Field.

In Pittsburgh, where "The Boss" had sold 42,000 tickets as of early July, the Pirates were accepting bids on a construction job that involves "retro-fitting" railings along the first row of seats, cutting and removing the steel bars to allow for on-field access for 9,000-10,000 concertgoers with floor seats, said Bob Derda, PNC Park director of events. He said the bars would be replaced after the concert.

"We have some egress issues with people on the field for the first time," he added, a condition that had to be approved by the city. Overall capacity could reach 50,000. (In most instances, the stage will be flush against the center-field wall, with some outfield seating unavailable for Springsteen dates.)

Derda said the Pirates also must purchase a smoke exhaust system for use in emergency situations at entrance/exit points.

"We have some first-time and only-time expenses and are still trying to figure out the initial costs," he said. "But we're definitely in this to raise revenues. We approached [event promoter] Clear Channel Entertainment a year ago after we felt comfortable with having concerts. We were persistent and told them we would be available."

In Boston, as the Red Sox waited for the city to grant an entertainment license for Springsteen within 30 days of a June 23 public hearing, senior vice president of Fenway affairs Larry Cancro admitted that the concert is an experiment and that the team must consider concerns from area residents. Tickets still went on sale, and both concerts sold out within 50 minutes on separate days.

"It's pretty imminent at this point, although obviously you can't go forward without an entertainment license. It would have to be something really severe, a catastrophic health issue" to be denied approval, he said.

"This is something we've never done before. Nobody knows how it will work. We're a neighborhood ballpark, not one surrounded by parking lots," Cancro said. "But with our concession deal with Aramark, we expect to have a good per cap that night. Between the rental and concessions, we think it's going to be worth the trouble we're going through." He said a "reasonable, conservative estimate" would be $10 for food and drink.

Cancro noted that Clear Channel and Springsteen's management did their homework preparing for the concerts. "They thoroughly researched it and had all the right answers in place from the get-go. Everything fell into place nicely. The demographics are similar to our own events."

MLB clubs in ballparks playing host to the concerts offered season-ticket holders the opportunity to buy Springsteen tickets before the official on-sale date, which proved successful, team representatives said.

Among other sports venues with multiple shows are Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., and Lincoln Financial Field. Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., has 10 dates. Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill was the only collegiate facility on the route in early July.

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