SBJ/Dec. 16-22, 2013/Facilities

What makes them beautiful: One Direction to fill NFL stadiums

Don Muret
One Direction’s 2014 tour provides good news on two fronts for big league stadiums in the business of booking concerts.

The first leg of the group’s “Where We Are” tour, announced last month, covers 18 stadiums from August to October, including 13 NFL venues and two MLB parks. Gillette Stadium, MetLife Stadium, Rogers Centre and Soldier Field all have two dates at their buildings.

It’s the first time playing stadiums for One Direction, the immensely popular British teen band that has quickly reached the point in its four-year touring career where it can sell 50,000 to 100,000 tickets in a single market.
 
The Timbers have added more field-level seats.
Photo by: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER / PORTLAND TIMBERS
Most important for stadium managers, One Direction brings one more act to the table on a short list of about a half-dozen headliners that can fill multiple stadium dates.

In addition, the tour helps fill a big void after country superstar Kenny Chesney announced he was taking next year off and would not play stadiums in 2014 after eight consecutive years of booking NFL and MLB venues.

The Gridiron Stadium Network, a consortium of 10 NFL facilities working together to bring special events to their venues, has played a key role in sustaining Chesney’s annual stadium extravaganza. In his absence, network officials turned to One Direction and secured four shows for its members in Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and Tampa, said Jeff Apregan, the group’s consultant and a former promoter.

Since 2005, several NFL teams, including members of the Gridiron group, have served as co-promoters for the Chesney production, spending money upfront to market their events in return for a potentially bigger payday. For One Direction, though, tour producer Live Nation is promoting all the shows on its own, Apregan said.
Teams can still generate income from concessions and parking tied to special events, which are exempt from revenue-sharing agreements in baseball and football. The concerts also bring value to stadium sponsors and season-ticket holders given first crack at buying tickets for what is shaping up to be one of next year’s hottest tours.

“It’s nice to see a new artist coming up to play to the level of a stadium show,” said Jimmie Sacco, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ executive director of stadium management at Heinz Field and a co-founder of the Gridiron Stadium Network. “I’m hoping someone else steps up. More acts have to create these [stadium] packages.”

> KNOCK ON WOOD: The demand for field-level seats at Jeld-Wen Field has led the Portland Timbers to expand their inventory for next season.

The team has added 16 seats distributed along the east sideline, opposite the team benches. They are sold as four-seat mini-boxes for $1,000 a game, which covers four tickets and food and soft drinks but no alcohol.
The Timbers introduced field boxes in 2011, the team’s first year in MLS.

All told there are now 104 field-level seats at the stadium, an old minor league baseball facility that underwent a retrofit for soccer. All are sold out for the 2014 season, said Mike Golub, the Timbers’ chief operating officer.

“It’s a good premium space for a 1926 building in the heart of downtown Portland,” Golub said. “It has an energy to it that you can’t manufacture.”

> EXPLODING THE MYTH: The crew at Premier Partnerships got a bit nervous after they found out Janet Napolitano had to approve Kabam’s field naming-rights deal at California Memorial Stadium (SportsBusiness Journal, Dec. 9-15).
Napolitano, president of the University of California school system, was previously secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The consultant wondered what she would think of a mobile video game company called Kabam putting its name on a football stadium.

“It’s Kabam, not kaboom, [but it’s] an interesting play on words that makes you think of weapons and explosions,” said Jeff Marks, Premier Partnerships’ managing director. “That had us all frightened, that maybe Janet’s group would not approve it because of the name association.”

As it turned out, Napolitano saw the fit and the 15-year, $18 million deal won approval, Marks said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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