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Volume 20 No. 46
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More teams don their concert promoter hats

Bruce Springsteen closed out his three-night stand at MetLife Stadium with a 63rd birthday celebration before 55,000 rain-soaked fans.

The three shows, Sept. 19, 21 and 22 — the final stadium dates for Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” tour of 2012, a route that included seven MLB and NFL buildings — also brought the curtain down on a profitable outdoor concert season for big league teams booking shows at their facilities.

More teams, especially those that have grown more experienced in the concert business through several years of aggressively pursuing shows, are increasing their share of the revenue. The number of clubs who choose to promote concerts, taking on more risk for the promise of greater returns, continues to grow at a steady rate, say consultants working with stadiums to book shows.

Crew Stadium in Columbus landed two shows through the Soccer Stadium Alliance.
By taking on the promoter’s role, paying artist guarantees and other fees upfront instead of renting their buildings to promoters, teams get a piece of ticket revenue, something they would not typically share in as part of a straight rental. In some cases, teams say, it also puts them in better position to get concert dates.

In MLB, MLS and the NFL, special events such as concerts are exempt from revenue-sharing agreements, giving those teams extra incentive to reach for more revenue.

Across the board, teams refused to discuss profits from their concert deals, although all said they made money on their shows. However, many were willing to share gross ticket sales figures (see chart).

For example, the joint venture running MetLife Stadium for the Jets and Giants promoted Springsteen in-house for three shows that generated $14.4 million in gross ticket sales, said Ron VanDeVeen, senior vice president of events and guest services.

This year, 10 of the 12 members of the Gridiron Stadium Network promoted the Kenny Chesney-Tim McGraw “Brothers of the Sun” tour, producing $42 million in gross ticket sales on attendance of more than 500,000, said Jeff Apregan, the network’s consultant. Within the network, it was the highest number of NFL facilities to buy the Chesney show since the group was formed in 2005 to lobby the entertainment industry for more events.

“Our members have really learned the concert business,” Apregan said.

Network member the Denver Broncos stepped up for the first time to co-promote Chesney-McGraw. The Broncos bought the show this year after learning from other teams’ experiences, said Andy Gorchov, general manager of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Another member, the Cleveland Browns, also co-promoted a Chesney-McGraw show. Jim Ross, senior vice president of business development for the Browns, said it was a moneymaker for the club and provides a foundation for booking more shows at the stadium in the future.

“It also provided a nice catalyst for suite sales, both for the show itself and to help with Browns sales, and it gave us a chance to launch some of our new concession offerings and high-end hospitality in advance of football season,” Ross said.

In Pittsburgh, Chesney played Heinz Field for the sixth consecutive summer. “We are looking at it for a seventh year,” said Jimmie Sacco, the Steelers’ executive director of stadium management. “Just when you say it’s coming to an end, it gets bigger.”

No tour was a bigger production this summer than Roger Waters’ “The Wall,” which played a half-dozen MLB ballparks: Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Yankee Stadium and Citizens Bank Park. Teams didn’t get the chance to promote the show — Live Nation promoted all the dates — but still generated significant revenue from concessions and parking.

At Wrigley, concert concessions, often fueled by beer sales, generate revenue much higher than $500,000, the total food and drink receipts at a typical Cubs game, team President Crane Kenney said.

The Soccer Stadium Alliance, a new group, was directly involved in booking five concerts this year at MLS facilities. Crew Stadium in Columbus had two of them, Jason Aldean and the Zac Brown Band.

In Denver, the Colorado Rapids played host to three Phish shows over Labor Day weekend for the second consecutive year. This year’s run generated $3.3 million in gross ticket sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Kroenke Sports Enterprises, owner of the Rapids and the stadium’s operator, co-promoted the show with AEG Live.