A baseball nut who knows his ballparks, Billy Joel picked Target Field as one of only six he’s playing this summer. The Twins’ home is also one of only three stadiums where you can see the unexpectedly popular concert mashup of Florida Georgia Line, Backstreet Boys and Nelly.
Across downtown Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium, three of rock’s all-time bestselling bands, U2, Guns N’ Roses and Coldplay, are all scheduled to play in the coming weeks, after Metallica delivered its one and only show there last summer. The new Vikings palace also would have hosted one of just six Justin Bieber stadium dates next month, but he canceled his tour Monday.
Never mind the Biebs, and take Nelly’s word for it: It’s getting hot in here.
The Twin Cities went nearly a decade without any stadium concerts (through most of the 2000s). Now, Minneapolis stadiums will play host to five big gigs over the next six weeks, counting three this weekend: Joel on Friday, Florida Georgia Line et al. on Saturday and the reunited GNR on Sunday.
The main reason for this steep uptick from a decade ago should be obvious to taxpayers who helped fund three giant new sports facilities in Minneapolis in the past eight years — also including TCF Bank Stadium, which temporarily gave up concerts for Major League Soccer this summer and next after hosting the Rolling Stones and Beyoncé the two prior years.
All three stadiums are much more attractive to bands and concert promoters than the dumpy old echo chamber that was the Metrodome. Exactly how much these new mega-venues are amping up our concert calendar is just now becoming clear, though.
“Minneapolis has transformed into a must-play concert market for most of these major tours,” said Jerry Goldman, assistant general manager at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Twins’ chief financial officer, Kip Elliott, bragged of Target Field, “I think it’s up there with the greats like Fenway and Wrigley now as one of the best ballparks for concerts.”
An avid concertgoer who frequently travels to Chicago for rock shows at Soldier and Wrigley fields, John Eichten of Minneapolis feels better about the public funding for our new stadiums now that they host more concerts. He’s headed to both the U2 and GNR gigs.
“There’s just a bigger buzz at these kinds of shows,” Eichten said. “I want to live in a major-league city, and I feel like I do now. We have all five of the major sports, and now we’re in the major league for concerts, too.”
Mega shows, big bucks
Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the California-based concert industry news site Pollstar, said the Twin Cities already was known to be a strong market for smaller concert tours, and now it’s finally living up to its reputation for the bigger shows.
“The Metrodome really did hurt you for a while, but things are evening out,” said Bongiovanni, who also credited the aggressiveness of local stadium representatives to bring in these concerts. “The people who run [U.S. Bank Stadium] said from the beginning they would bring in a lot of shows, and it looks like they meant it.”
Many stadiums used to resist hosting concerts, Bongiovanni said. Boston’s 105-year-old Fenway Park, for instance, didn’t start hosting concerts until 2003. “They were afraid they’d tear up the grass and cause a lot of hassles,” he said. “Now, a lot of stadium operators are eager and even obligated to host them.”
Goldman at U.S. Bank Stadium acknowledged that obligation: “We have a rather fiduciary responsibility” to the state-run Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, he said, “and concerts are a great way to meet the bottom line. But they’re also a fun way to enhance the quality of life in Minnesota the way a stadium was intended to do.”
The increase in stadium concerts is not just a local trend. Stadium tours are more abundant around the country, and the reasons are evident here in Minneapolis.
Newer stadiums like ours were built with concerts in mind, with better access for crews to load in music equipment, easier ways to cover or remove turf and more advanced acoustic treatments to help improve sound.
Concert promoters such as Live Nation — which generated a record $8.4 billion in revenue last year — are learning new ways of making money off stadium tours, using everything from phone apps that monitor your every purchase at a concert to more basic money-saving ventures, such as the twofer deal offered to Target Field this weekend.
The Live Nation-promoted Joel and Florida Georgia Line concerts will use mostly the same stage production and crew, a tactic the Los Angeles-based company also offered last year to U.S. Bank Stadium when the football stadium hosted Metallica and Luke Bryan on back-to-back nights.
The Twins’ chief business officer, Laura Day, acknowledged that this doubleheader technique added incentive for bringing the shows.
“Anything that saves time on the setup is a good thing for us,” said Day, pointing to the Twins’ 81 home games and the two to four days it typically takes a crew to set up a concert on this scale. “We’d like to host even more concerts, but it’s always a matter of finding the right acts at the right time.”
The peculiarly stitched-together FGL/Backstreet/Nelly triple bill hitting Target Field on Saturday could be another sign of the times. Live Nation found a way of making a stadium tour out of acts who would fill only smaller venues on their own. Similar hodgepodge tours could follow, adding even more tours to the stadium concert circuit.
“A lot of people were surprised by that one, and I’m sure [promoters] are taking note of it,” said Bongiovanni.
Of course, the stadium hosts aren’t the only ones excited to see these concerts.
“They usually fill up the hotels down here, and that spills over nicely with people coming in both before and after the shows,” said Shane Higgins, general manager at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis, where restaurant business has been stymied in recent months while Target Center is closed for renovations. “We definitely welcome the added crowds now.”
Stadium concerts aren’t just good for business in the general sense, but they also help directly pay back the taxpayers who helped build the facilities.
While it pales to the $500 million in public money that went toward building U.S. Bank Stadium, around $600,000 was generated in taxes just off ticket sales at last summer’s sold-out Metallica concert. That includes the state’s standard 6.875 percent sales tax, plus Minneapolis’ 3 percent entertainment tax. Concessions and merchandise sales generate even more tax dollars (exact figures were requested but not granted by stadium representatives).
At least for now, the folks at the new NFL stadium don’t have to work too hard to find bands eager to play there, Goldman said. U.S. Bank Stadium is extra attractive as a concert venue because it’s now one of the biggest around with a roof, which (knock on glass and steel) means the multimillion-dollar tours won’t risk cancellation due to bad weather. Also, last summer’s Metallica show and the upcoming Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4 have put the stadium on the map in a big way.
“We’re definitely still in our honeymoon period,” Goldman said, “but that will be pretty short-lived if the artists and fans don’t have good experiences, so we’re working hard to guarantee they do.”
While Target Field reps have to wait until the Twins’ schedule is finalized in the fall, U.S. Bank Stadium officials are already weighing offers for next summer.
“The outlook is pretty exciting,” Goldman said.