Ballpark's on deck for first concert

Country music's Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney will be in center field for their "Brothers of the Sun" show Sunday.

It was a pretty typical Friday morning for Twins relief pitcher Matt Capps since he went on the disabled list a week and a half ago: A morning workout at Target Field, with a throwing session from the mound.

The scene around Capps was anything but typical, though, as Minneapolis' new ballpark prepared for its debut concert Sunday with country music heavy-hitters Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw.

A massive stage stretched across center field, looming as high as the upper decks and as wide as outfielder Denard Span's entire coverage territory. Light and sound towers jutted out from first and third base. Both dugouts were lined with concession carts. And the scoreboard above flashed the "Brothers of the Sun" tour logo.

"It might be the truest example of this being a multi-use facility," said Kevin Smith, Twins director of communications.

Capps, Smith and a lot of the Twins staff went about their business as usual this week, even as their ballpark was taken over by the 285-member production crew for one of this summer's biggest concert tours. The opening show alone grossed $4.3 million in Tampa, Fla., last month, Billboard reported.

Minneapolis' date will bring about 40,000 people to the new ballpark -- many of whom will be partying right there on the natural-grass field.

"In a way, it's like we rented out our place just like we would for a wedding reception or private party, and they can do with it what they want," said Smith, adding firmly, "within reason, of course."

The Twins staffer who has been with the Chesney/McGraw tour crew from the ground up, head groundskeeper Larry DiVito, spent much of Friday watering the grass around the stage -- in part as defense against the 100-degree heat, but also against the 7,500 fans expected to take the field during the concert.

"Anything we can do to preserve the field is being made a lot more difficult by the hot weather," said DiVito, who also worked with concerts and even a papal visit at ballparks in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. "It's never a very graceful transition."

Lots of beer, and no smoking

Chesney and McGraw fans could make it an especially rowdy concert debut. A few thousand of them will be living it up in a general-admission area in front of the stage called the Sandbar (beach-themed, but not actually involving any sand).

A few thousand more will be spread out in chairs between right and left fields.

They'll be able to buy beer right there on the field. They'll even be able to relieve themselves right there on the field (no worries, Denard: The porta potties are on their way). They won't be able to smoke, though, a ban that stadium officials say will be strictly enforced.

Extra sod is on order should the field need repair patchwork come Tuesday, when the tour production will be completely cleared from the field. About 80 semitrailer trucks were involved in the unloading at Target Field.

Downtown venues are eager

Setup began Wednesday on the stage, which is up against the black wall in center field facing toward home plate (only a few outfield sections were sold for the concert). The tour has different production caravans so the concert can be set up simultaneously in different cities. It plays at Chicago's Soldier Field on Saturday.

Only the Twins' 2010 playoff games drew more than 40,000 to the new ballpark. Neighboring bars and restaurants -- some of which have reported declining business alongside the Twins' own declining record -- are hoping fans come early and stay late.

"We're staffing up and getting all our orders in," said Mike DeMarco, manager at the new country-themed Cowboy Jack's bar, which opened last month within horseshoe-tossing distance of Target Field. He said he wouldn't be surprised to see the bar even more packed Sunday than it is for a Twins game.

Public transit a good idea

Because of the larger-than-average attendance -- not to mention the robust alcohol sales expected -- Twins officials are encouraging concertgoers to use public transit to and from the concert. Beyond that, they say they expect few problems accommodating their first concert.

"We've really been planning for this since we first put the shovels in the ground to build Target Field," said Smith, shortly after he took a call about Sunday's set times from Joe Pohlad. Members of the Twins-owning Pohlad family are expected at the concert, as are some of the players' wives and family members.

Twins officials would not share figures on what their cut of ticket sales and concessions will be, but Smith said they see the payoff as more than financial.

"It underlines the commitment to make Target Field an asset to the community at large," he said. "It's not all about the Twins."

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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  • CHESNEY & MCGRAW

    When: 4:30 p.m. Sun.

    Where: Target Field.

    Tickets: $78-$278, www.tickets.com.

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