SERVICE: The Feldman Agency plans at least 15 concerts in the first year of managing The Bowl at Sobeys Stadium, which is primarily a tennis complex. (Courtesy venue)
Tennis Canada’s Sobeys Stadium in the north end of Toronto, which hosts the top tennis tournament the National Bank Open every August, is now managed by Toronto-based talent agency The Feldman Agency for concerts and entertainment.
The lineup for next summer is expected to be announced in late February.
The Bowl, as they are calling the show configuration, is part of a sports and entertainment complex on York University’s Keele Campus, close to main highways and public transit. Sobeys Stadium is the umbrella name for the 15 acres that houses tennis facilities, including the stadium, branded The Bowl at Sobeys Stadium, which has more than 9,000 reserved seats.
Parking is one big plus compared to the downtown venues, where construction not only makes driving a challenge but parking lots are being replaced by condominiums. York University has almost as many parking spaces as The Bowl has seats, with more than 7,700.
The stadium also has an onsite bar and lounge, 20 executive lounges, plus 5,000 square feet of space for concessions.
The venue, built in 2004, was formerly known as Aviva Centre and previously Rexall Centre. In 2022, Sobeys bought the naming rights.
Past concerts, according to the Sobeys Stadium website, include John Fogerty, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Eric Church, Metric, Major Lazer, Lupe Fiasco, Diana Krall, Tony Bennett, Lionel Richie, and N.E.R.D. Still, concerts were mostly a combo of shows Feldman booked in 2011 or York U frosh events. It’s primarily used for tennis.
The Feldman Agency represents more than 300 artists, offering services including booking, event ownership and managing brand partnerships.
Feldman Agency CEO Jeff Craib says it’s the first venue to be operated by the agency, and that it will feature performances of all types – not exclusive to Feldman clients.
“Well, it’s our roster if it makes sense,” Craib said. “If the artist, the timing works or if they want to play a different venue or play to a different area of the city or a different-size configuration, then absolutely they’ll go in. But we’re respecting all the promoters and any historical relationships that they have with the artists and we’re making it available to any promoter.”
Craib says he’s in the process of interviewing for a manager/operator position for The Bowl, which he says will have at least 15 shows in year one.
VenuesNow: How does the venue accommodate concerts?
Jeff Craib: We have a custom sound, lights and video package and a custom stage to fit the space. Unisson Structures is doing the staging. We’ve got people bidding on the dura-decking for the flooring. We’ve got a number of production quotes, although I’m going to try and work with Gil [Moore] at Metalworks.
What are the considerations to ensure there’s no damage to the court surface from weight of stage or foot traffic?
They keep very good care. They’re part of the ATP [Association of Tennis Professionals] and it’s obviously important to them. They’re hosting a national tournament every year and have for 25 years. They have time to come in and do a full repair, full painting, full everything on the court surface itself before mid-July. We’re in there for a long-term situation.
They have the superstars of tennis play the National Bank Open, so the amenities must already be in place. What are some of the things they might not have, to accommodate, say, tour buses?
We’re using all the facilities for dressing rooms, so it’s very nice. They’ve put in a custom signature lounge, so it’s like a platinum club, underneath the stage area. It holds 400 people — come in, get a drink, a bite to eat before the show, intermission, after the show. There’s executive boxes that are way closer to the performance area than an arena or the stadium would be. It’s obviously smaller, but in some of the cases like Rogers Centre, the boxes are 300 yards from the performance area. There isn’t a venue in Toronto with 8,900 seats, where your proximity to the stage is as good as this.
Is there anything specific that you have to do, technically, to make The Bowl competitive in this market?
We have a stage that’s custom built that holds 65,000 pounds for A- level touring artists.
None of it has roof cover. Is that a worry?
Nope. It has a cover, but the fans’ area is open air. It’s nice. Beautiful. You’re outside. The concourses are big. Remember that it rains during tennis and not everybody sits in the stands; they have to go somewhere. People stand in there and you’re out of the rain. Although, it’ll be rain or shine, like any concert.
Will you have multiple stage configurations?
No, but we’ve talked about doing in the round, but it limits viewership from up above. If have a stage structure with a roof, when you’re in the 300 level and you look down, you can’t see clear all the way through. You can see the drummer if you are on one side, that kind of thing. But we have the potential of multiple configurations, including in the round, GA on the floor and seated with an end stage.
The stadium will be 20 years old next year. Is everything intact?
They refurbish it on an ongoing basis. They’re constantly upgrading. Tennis Canada’s putting money in every year. They’re upgrading the seats; they upgrade the boxes; they upgraded this signature lounge.
When is your grand opening?
We’ll have a big to-do, but we’re gonna launch the season and then enable the tickets. I don’t want to get into one act at a time because when we’re starting something we need to galvanize some interest. The only way to do it is, “Here’s 10 shows.”