Grateful Dead's Fare Thee Well farewell tour sold out the stadium for three nights.
To say July was a busy month at Soldier Field, Chicago, would be an understatement.
The stadium, which is owned by the Chicago Parks District and managed by SMG, generated a projected $6.74 million in revenue with five major concert dates, three soccer matches, a private corporate party and the Big Ten Network Race. The projected revenue sets a new record for a one-month period at Soldier Field, more than tripling the record set in 2009.
“This is one of those summers that is incredible,” said GM Tim LeFevour. “You don’t see this. This is one of those years that comes around once in every 10 years. Trust me, we’re not complaining.”
When it comes to building the lineup for a record-setting month, the equation involves a mixture of annual events, international tournaments and unpredictable one offs.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Luca Serra, director of Sponsorship and Media. “A little bit of hard work, a little bit of keeping some great relationships and always trying to service our clients, whether it be one offs or recurring clients. And then a little bit of luck. All of that works altogether somehow, and this is what you end up with.”
It started over 4th of July weekend, which was 50 years in the making with Grateful Dead’s three-day Fare Thee Well farewell concert, which broke attendance and concessions records at Soldier Field, averaging 71,000 attendees per night.
“It was the hottest ticket of the summer,” said LeFevour. “I think there was an article in Chicago that the number one venue in the United States over Fourth of July weekend was Soldier Field, because of the Grateful Dead concerts.”
The stadium’s normal seating capacity tops out at 63,500, but with the concert set up and standing room only on the field, they were able to pack in 71,000 people each night, which means they hosted over 213,000 people over the three days.
Aramark set a new concessions record over the weekend. Food and beverage per caps alone totaled $32, including merchandise that number went up to $50.
“I take a look at our big client, the Chicago Bears, and their average on a good day like against Green Bay would be $24 per person,” said LeFevour. “So you’re doubling that.”
The business didn’t stop there as the stadium’s natural grass field had to then be turned over for CONCACAF Gold Cup Group C doubleheader just four days after Grateful Dead’s last show. A quick turnover was needed once again after Taylor Swift’s July 17 and 18 shows were followed closely by a private hospitality event on the field and then a Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germaine match and the International Champions Cup for the second consecutive year on July 29.
On July 25, Soldier Field welcomed 15,000 participants for the Big Ten Network Race, a 5k and 10k fun run that attracts Big Tem alumni from Chicago and the surrounding states. This and many of the other events in July attracted a crowd from out of state and even internationally, further impacting the city of Chicago. LeFevour estimated that over half the audience at the Grateful Dead shows was from out of town.
“We’re expecting almost $500,000 in incremental revenue to the city by virtue of that show through hotel bookings and restaurants,” said Serra.
Interviewed for this story: Tim LeFevour, (312) 235-7000; Luca Serra, (312) 235-7149