One of the great things about Kevin Beale’s job as Senior Director, Business Development & Suite Sales with the Phillies is that he is part of the team that secures acts for the large concerts staged each summer at Citizens Bank Park.
Many big-name acts have played to full houses from CBP’s outfield stage, and each has a collection of management, staff, roadies and others charged with making sure things run smoothly on the road. Beale interacts with them as the show approaches, in a furious push to make sure everything goes well. When the music ends, and the crowd goes home, what has been an intense relationship evaporates.
“I love working on concerts,” says Beale, who is entering his 24th season with the Phillies. “There are so many different parties involved, and it’s a crazy sprint. We announce the show, it goes on sale, and then things die down. As the show gets closer, we sprint again. The night of the show is an unveiling, and then everybody’s gone.
Since 2005 – one year after it opened – the Phillies’ home has hosted shows, and this season will be no different. Jimmy Buffett was the first performer to play at the stadium, and since then some giants of the music world have thrilled audiences at the Bank. Included are Paul McCartney, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Police. The concerts usually sell out, and they provide the Phillies with some extra revenue at a time when the team is on the road.
They also create a unique set of challenges for Beale and the Phillies organization, who usually have a week or so to set up, stage and break down the concerts, all while making sure the playing surface holding the stage and thousands of fans remains at a major-league level.
“It’s another opportunity for fans to come to Citizens Bank Park,” Beale says. “We have 81 home games, with opportunities for the playoffs, and the building is dark when the Phillies aren’t playing. We can get people down to see concerts and fill some of those dates.”
This year, the ballpark will host six different concerts by four artists, Dead and Company on June 15, Morgan Wallen (June 17), two Bruce Springsteen shows on August 16 and 18 and two straight nights of Pink’s “Summer Carnival” on September 18 and 19.
In addition to those standalone shows, the Phillies will present two post-game concerts. On July 10, the indie pop trio AJR will perform, and on July 1 Shaquille O’Neal, under his stage name Diesel, will present an EDM show. Yes, it’s THAT Shaquille O’Neal.
“I think it will get a lot of traction,” says Jamie Trout, the Phillies Senior Director, Marketing Events and Special Projects.
Philadelphia’s outdoor venues have been sites for concerts for decades. JFK Stadium hosted Live Aid in 1985 and countless other epic performances, like the 1976 Yes/Peter Frampton/Gary Wright show that drew 130,000 people, the ‘77 Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd-headlined gig, the 1980 Roundup Southern Rock extravaganza, several Grateful Dead experiences, and the 1984 Jacksons Victory Tour. Veterans Stadium hosted the Rolling Stones, McCartney, The Who, Madonna, Pink Floyd, and Dave Matthews Band, among others, while the Linc continues to be a popular stop for many big-time artists, including, over the years, Taylor Swift and Beyonce, both of whom will be there this year, Springsteen, the Stones, Kenny Chesney, One Direction and Coldplay.
That tradition continues this year at CBP, with standalone and post-game offerings designed to make as much use of the facility as possible and to provide opportunities for local music aficionados to experience some live shows.
“The idea is to offer added value to fans,” Trout says. “We treat it like our other promotions, whether it’s a bobblehead giveaway or something like that.
“Hopefully some people will come out to the game who don’t usually do that.”
When the Phillies leave town on June 11 for a seven-game road trip after hosting the Dodgers, it won’t be long until the ballpark will no longer be about America’s Pastime. A little bit of prep work will follow the game with L.A., and on Monday and Tuesday, the stage and speaker towers will be built to accommodate Dead & Co. on June 15 and Wallen two days later.
“In an ideal world, we have four days to prepare,” Beale says. “We have done a more consolidated build.”
Wednesday the 14th will be “production day,” when the Dead’s team will add the technology, branding, and band-specific touches. It’s also when a “third-party vendor” puts between 10-12,000 seats on a covering atop the outfield. (There is no infield seating.) When the final note floats into the sky, Wallen’s team will do the same thing to prepare for his show. The big stuff stays the same for both bands. Although Beale and his team are capable of working with a variety of different acts, several different promoters, like AEG or Live Nation, it prefers G2 Structures, a North Carolina-based company, to put up the framework.
It’s important to make sure the field remains in good enough condition, so that when the Phillies return, they don’t face anything that can impede or hamper performance. Thanks to an excellent drainage system and world-class groundskeepers who can keep the grass in good shape that usually happens, although there have been some times when some grass has had to be replaced. It happened last year, when Dead & Co. and Elton John played five days apart, and fans were able to see a large, rectangular patch in centerfield. An unusually heavy stage favored by the British rocker was the culprit.
“The concerts are usually in the middle of the summer, when it’s hot, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take,” Beale says. “We had to replace some of the field, but we knew we would be replacing the whole field during the off-season as part of natural maintenance.”
Although the inaugural CBP concert featuring Buffett and his band, was staged during a torrential rainstorm and left the grass with an odd, striped look for a couple weeks that replicated the rows of field seats, it is rare that there is any significant or long-term damage to the turf.
As for other details about the stand-alone concerts, Aramark, which handles the Phillies concessions, provides the hot dogs, soda and beer. As for clean-up, OVG – which handles the ballpark’s daily custodial care – makes sure the stadium is ready for the next event.
“By 4 p.m. the next day, everything is off the field, and the stands are clean,” Beale says. “It looks like there was no concert. There’s a lot of coordination and a lot of people working long hours. I’ll watch the group collecting the chairs, and they move 100 miles per hour.”
For the post-game concerts, the Phillies work with Ballpark Music, an Atlanta-based production company that partners with eight other MLB teams, three NFL franchises, several colleges and some minor league outfits, along with Major League Baseball itself to provide entertainment before and after playoff and World Series games. “They handle everything, soup to nuts,” Trout says.
After the game, it takes about a half-hour to get the stage, which is considerably smaller than those favored by the bigger shows, set up behind second base. Fans who pay $30 extra are allowed to come onto the infield dirt to watch the show. Artists usually perform for about an hour, and the stage is removed right after the music stops.
“One of the biggest factors when we decided to give [post-game concerts] a try, was that we wanted to make sure the promoter knew there could be no issues for the next day’s game,” Trout says.
Many of those who stick around for the concerts are baseball fans hoping to get a little more for their money. But some of the bands’ supporters show up later in the game and are interested exclusively in the music. Whatever the motivation for the patrons, the Phillies’ aim for the post-game shows is the same.
“Certainly, we see an increase in ticket sales and an increase in concessions,” Trout says. “It’s sponsored [by Jim Beam], so there is a little extra there. We just want to create a fun, exciting atmosphere.
“We don’t want to book a show just to book a show. We want ones that we feel will be impactful.”
And maybe to make some new friends along the way.
For a little while.