For the second time in two years, a traveling drum and bugle corps show has been bumped from the University of Minnesota’s football stadium, and organizers are crying foul.
In 2014, the U Athletics Department forced Drum Corps International to give up its slot to make way for a free concert. Auditors later slammed the decision, which cost the university an estimated $125,000 in lost revenue.
Last month, the university told the same group that it would have to move its July 16 event, this time to make room for a private football camp run by coach Tracy Claeys.
The change is expected to cost the university tens of thousands of dollars in lost rent and disrupt a popular traveling tour, with thousands of student musicians, once again.
Todd Tanji of Eagan, one of the organizers of the drum corps show, said he got a call March 9 telling him the stadium was no longer available on the scheduled tour date. His reaction, he recalled, was: “Here we go again.”
University officials say they mistakenly double-booked the facility last fall and didn’t discover the problem until months later.
“This was simply a situation where we made an error in a particular date,” said Tom McGinnis, chief financial officer for the Athletics Department, which handles stadium bookings. Since March, the two sides have been trying to reschedule the event. But as of Friday, McGinnis said, “we have not come to a final solution.”
Organizers say that Minneapolis has been one of the most popular stops, drawing up to 8,000 fans every summer to watch some of the top drum and bugle corps in the country. Since 2010, the event has been held at the university’s TCF Bank Stadium every summer but one.
The group thought it had a lock on the stadium for July 12, 2014, according to Brent Turner, who handles the logistics for the Minneapolis event. But six months after the group had requested the day, the university “asked us to move our date,” he said. It turned out that Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game was in town that weekend, and planners wanted to host a free Imagine Dragons concert at the U stadium. The Athletics Department agreed to host the concert, rent-free, in exchange for a suite at the baseball game for then-athletic director Norwood Teague and about 50 guests.
Last fall, in the wake of Teague’s ouster in a sex harassment scandal, university auditors criticized the deal as an example of poor oversight, saying it had cost the university more than $125,000 in lost revenue.
The decision also forced Drum Corps International to move its event to two smaller venues, which cut into its ticket sales, according to Turner. He estimated that cost the national and local groups about $80,000 in lost revenue.
Last summer, the event returned to TCF Stadium, and organizers put in their request for 2016 last August, according to e-mails provided by the group. Initially, university officials hedged on making a commitment, but on Dec. 2, McGinnis wrote: “We are fine to proceed with your event slated for July 16, 2016, at TCF Bank Stadium.” But McGinnis said that, because of a mix-up, he was unaware that in September the football camp had requested that same date. He noted that, every summer, the head football coach runs a series of private camps at the university for high school and younger students.
This year, the camp will pay about $600 a day to rent the stadium, McGinnis said. Last year, the Drum Corps paid $96,000 to use the facility, including $42,000 in rent and ticketing fees.
Asked why he would choose the camps over the Drum Corps, McGinnis said it’s only natural for the university to give preference to the athletic program. “Camps are an important part of running a sports program,” McGinnis said. “Our priority is to support our athletic departments.”
Drum Corps organizers say they’re not challenging the value of the football camps. But they say they’ve been frustrated by the university’s wavering. “It’s a mess right now,” Turner said.
At the same time, event officials say they hope they can salvage this year’s show. They’ve been trying to work out the logistics to move the date to July 15, a Friday night, said Dan Acheson, executive director of Drum Corps International.
“As frustrated as we are, we’re still very grateful that the university is willing to work with us,” he said.
He also acknowledged that his own group could be faulted, too, for moving ahead without a signed contract for the stadium date.
“It’s shame on us, right?” he said. “Shame on you if it happens once, shame on us if it happens twice. That’s really what it is. … We took the word that we’re in good shape way back in December. We thought we had this and it wasn’t going to be an issue.”