A concert featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd at TIAA Bank Field on Sept. 2 helped make the case that the stadium was ready for high-profile concerts. (Doltyn Snedden)
The Rolling Stones have booked their first stadium concert in Jacksonville, Fla., in 30 years, in large part because of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars’ financial commitment to bring large-scale events to TIAA Bank Field.
The Stones’ No Filter tour will play the north Florida stadium April 24, and according to Jaguars’ officials, early ticket sales data show strong interest from Georgia after the group bypassed Atlanta, traditionally a cornerstone in the Southeast for major concerts.
The band on Nov. 19 announced a 13-city U.S. tour that will launch in April. It’s not known whether additional stops will be announced later.
For Greater Jacksonville, a region of 900,000 residents, the show would not have happened without several factors, including the success of the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert over Labor Day weekend, Jaguars President Mark Lamping said.
Under team owner Shahid Khan, the Jaguars have invested tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the stadium over the past seven years. TIAA Bank Field originally opened in 1928 and underwent a $124 million rebuild to accommodate the Jaguars, who entered the league in 1995 as an expansion team.
The stadium itself has a rich history as a concert venue. As the old Gator Bowl, it was among the few stadiums to play host to Elvis Presley (1956), The Beatles (1964) and the Rolling Stones (1975 and 1989).
In addition, the Jaguars built Daily’s Place, the 5,500-seat amphitheater attached to the stadium. Live Nation has booked an average of 40 concerts over the summer since it opened in May 2017, Lamping said, and the venue has helped put Jacksonville back on the map for artists, agents and promoters.
The city of Jacksonville, owner of TIAA Bank Field, did its part by adjusting the Jaguars’ lease, allowing them to book concerts.
To help strengthen their position in the touring industry, the Jaguars hired Larry Wilson, formerly with SMG, the stadium’s management firm, as their vice president of facility operations. The team also signed a three-year deal with OVG Facilities for further support in booking concerts and other special events. (OVG Facilities is a division of Oak View Group, owner of VenuesNow.)
“We felt there was a big opportunity out there and way too many shows were bypassing Jacksonville,” Lamping said. “Once Daily’s Place launched, we began having more frequent and direct conversations with agents and promoters and began to make our presence known in Nashville and Los Angeles.”
Most important, the Jaguars have taken an aggressive approach by assuming financial risk upfront to promote concerts, which gives them a greater chance of securing the Stones over a typical rental agreement, said Chad Johnson, the team’s senior vice president of sales and service and chief content officer.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Detroit Lions are other NFL teams that have taken on the same business model at their stadiums. As chief content officer in Jacksonville, a new position with the Jaguars, Johnson works closely with Wilson to book concerts at the stadium and amphitheater.
The Sept. 2 Lynyrd Skynyrd show was the first time the Jaguars filled the role of promoter. The team used the event to prove a smaller market such as Jacksonville could deliver a first-class experience for the artists and the fans, Johnson said.
Skynyrd, Jason Aldean and Kid Rock were the headliners with the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels Band and Blackberry Smoke as support acts. The Jaguars partnered with Live Nation and it was a profitable venture, grossing more than $3.75 million in ticket sales with more than 44,000 in attendance.
“It solidified what we have been saying all along, that what we may lack in market size we gain in controlling the rhetoric and how the city can mobilize around large events,” Johnson said. “The success of that show allowed us to continue to establish our reputation in the industry and start having conversations with the right people about how that can continue.”
For the Stones, the “right people” included Concerts West, the group’s tour promoter. The Jaguars were able to get the promoter and the Stones’ management group to buy into their vision and ability to execute the production, Johnson said.
Their efforts paid off. Jacksonville is for now one of only 13 cities on the U.S. tour.
John Meglen, co-CEO of Concerts West, which is part of AEG Presents, did not return multiple emails for comment.
“Jacksonville would to anyone’s standards be an outlier there,” Johnson said. “OVG assisted in making those connections with Concerts West and making sure they were able to listen to and understand the investments we’ve made … to get the promoter comfortable with what we could deliver.”
“From that point, we just needed to work through what would be the business terms and overall relationship,” he said.
The 2019 tour kicks off at Hard Rock Stadium near Miami before heading to Jacksonville. The closest venue north of Jacksonville on the Stones’ route is FedEx Field in Washington and the closest west is NRG Stadium in Houston, so the city should see a spike in tourism dollars.
“We’ll be a regional destination … and it’s important to have a full slate of programming for those guests coming in and we’re through using facilities like Daily’s Place around the show,” Johnson said.
Apart from the Stones, the Jaguars have landed another high-profile act for 2019. Country superstar Kenny Chesney is booked April 13 at Daily’s Place. Chesney traditionally plays NFL stadiums, but next year he’s focusing on smaller venues.
“It’s not as large as the Stones announcement, but long term, it’s equally significant,” Lamping said. “There’s a countless number of venues that Kenny could have played, given he’s looking at smaller buildings. Fortunately, we were chosen, thanks to really good reports that came from artists and managers about their experience here in the past.”