SOLDIER OF FORTUNE: Pop superstar Taylor Swift performs at Soldier Field on June 2, one of her three sold-out concerts at the NFL stadium in 2023. (Getty Images)

Four NFL venues book six or more concerts for 2023

ASM Global executive vice president Doug Thornton plans to join the throng of 100,000 “Swifties” at US Bank Stadium this week for two sold-out Taylor Swift concerts. It’s his first experience attending 2023’s blockbuster production.

Swift’s “Eras Tour” is projected to break records for attendance and ticket sales for a North American stadium tour. ASM Global runs seven NFL stadiums and sits in the middle of the action for a big chunk of those dates.

All told, ASM Global spreadsheets report that 1.8 million tickets have been sold for 41 concerts across the board at six NFL stadiums managed by the company, generating $360 million in gross ticket sales, according to data provided by Thornton.

Four of those venues, including US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, are part of the massive Taylor Swift tour. All four buildings set records for the total number of concerts at their facilities in a fiscal year, according to Thornton. (See the July issue of VenuesNow magazine).

Soldier Field tops the list with nine concerts in 2023, followed by NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas (eight); State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona where Taylor Swift rehearsed for a week before starting her tour there (seven); and US Bank Stadium (six). 

Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada has nine concerts this year, which falls short of the 16 shows it had in 2022, but those events still provide a healthy dose of content apart from primary tenants the Las Vegas Raiders and UNLV football. 

Elsewhere within the ASM Global portfolio, the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana has been closed for renovations this year, which Thornton said prevented the building from booking a pair of Taylor Swift dates in April. The dome reopens June 30 for the three-day Essence Festival. Beyonce on Sept. 27 is the other concert this year at the 48-year-old stadium.

TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, another ASM Global client, does not have any concerts on the books for this year, due in part to being an outdoor facility with hot, humid weather being a factor, Thornton said.

Overall, 2023 is the biggest year ever for ASM Global buildings, including Soldier Field, where Taylor Swift performed three sold-out performances in early June. ASM Global, which rebranded after a merger between SMG and AEG Facilities five years ago, has operated the Chicago Bears stadium since 1994, dating to when it was an SMG account.

For some Swifties and their family and friends that couldn’t get tickets in Chicago, many hung out next door to listen to the show, perched on park land that’s part of the city’s museum campus. For ASM Global, those scenes are a relatively new phenomenon, Thornton said.

Similar gatherings have taken place in other markets, with parents waiting in stadium plazas and parking lots while their children are inside enjoying the show, such as Brandon Lucas, president of Carbonhouse, a developer of mobile applications for public assembly facilities. 

“Kindle fully charged for parking lot wait,” Lucas wrote on Facebook as he sat outside Acrisure Stadium with other dads on Father’s Day weekend while his two daughters attended Taylor Swift’s June 16 concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

IN THE PITT: Taylor Swift drew 72,000-plus to Acrisure Stadium on June 16, one of her two shows in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo)

The Pittsburgh Steelers run Acrisure Stadium, which has five concerts this summer. Swift’s two shows at the building drew combined crowds of 145,000. Her June 17 performance before 73,113 in Pittsburgh set record attendance for all events held to date at the 22-year-old facility. Garth Brooks held the previous record of 72,887, set in 2019.

Jimmie Sacco, the Steelers’ vice president of stadium operations and management, said over his 55 years working in the venues industry, he’s never seen anybody capture an audience like Taylor Swift did in the Steel City. Sacco pointed out that she’s now attracting three generations of fans since signing her first songwriting deal in 2004.

“The impact on the community was unbelievable,” Sacco said. “It’s a good thing. The world needs an uplifting experience and she’s doing it. It’s pretty amazing.”

Outside the stadium, there were 15,000 to 20,000 people listening to the concerts, Sacco said. Aramark, the stadium concessionaire, set up food and drink portables to generate revenue apart from inside the building. No alcohol was sold on the periphery.

Merchandise essentially sold out in Pittsburgh. For the most part, Taylor Swift kept retail items affordable; hoodies sold for $75, for example, compared with $100 for other tours, he said.

Acrisure Stadium has Ed Sheehan (July 8) and Beyonce (Aug. 3) remaining to close the summer before another busy football season with the Steelers and Pitt Panthers.

“This is one of the biggest years for us in a long time,” Sacco said. “There are other acts out playing other buildings. Everybody’s getting a taste of it. People are spending a lot of money, which is good for the economy.”

Pent-up demand coming out of the pandemic is no longer the leading driver for driving robust ticket sales after two years of opening at full capacity, Thornton said. ASM Global basically reopened for business with Garth Brooks in July 2021 at Allegiant Stadium. 

“Given the situation with the Fed interest rates and the economy and the recession that has never happened, the public has an appetite for live events,” he said. “The way that stadium concerts are delivered today makes it more compelling for people in terms of where they spend their money. Taylor Swift’s concert, for example, is very engaging, a long show with lots of quality production.”

On their own, stadiums are so much better in terms of consuming the product in the seating bowl, with multiple premium seat packages that give fans a degree of comfort and a unique experience they may not otherwise get with other live entertainment, Thornton said.

“It’s totally different today than it was even five to seven years ago,” he said. “Things are evolving. I’ve found with Taylor Swift shows, in particular, that people will travel great distances. A lot of it is destination oriented now. I’ve had friends of mine from Miami flying to Vegas for that show. They could’ve gone to Tampa. That’s another thing that’s different today vs. 10 to 20 years ago.”

Heading into the halfway point of the summer concert season, Thornton said food and drink per caps, including beer, wine and spirits, are up at every ASM Global venue. For concerts, sales are holding steady at 80% beverages over 20% food. Taylor Swift, drawing a largely teenage audience, the top seller is bottled water, by a two to one margin over all other items. 

One trade report stated that decreased spending on alcohol has been trending for shows in clubs and smaller venues. That’s not the case for ASM Global, which runs 350 arenas, stadiums and convention centers.

“There’s been no diminishment in alcohol sales compared with the past,” Thornton said.