Preparing for five major concerts over a two-day period is no easy task, but organizers of Garth Brooks’ upcoming wildfire benefit shows in Los Angeles are “confident we can do it,” Staples Center senior VP/GM Lee Zeidman tells Billboard.
In an effort to raise money for those affected by the October 2007 blazes in Southern California, Brooks will play five sold-out concerts at the 20,000-seat arena between Jan. 25-26. The opening day will find the country singer performing two-hour shows at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. On Jan. 26, the artist will play three concerts at 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Special as-yet-unannounced guests are also expected to appear.
Originally announced as a one-off benefit concert, organizers quickly rolled out additional shows after seeing an overwhelming ticket demand during the Dec. 1 on-sale, which moved more than 85,000 tickets (not including arena suites) in less than an hour, according to officials at Staples Center, which is owned and operated by Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment presenter AEG.
Tickets were priced at approximately $45 (including service fees), with proceeds going to the 2008 Fire Intervention Relief Effort, a campaign of the McCormick Tribune Foundation. Organizers hope to raise $10 million, according to Zeidman.
CBS will broadcast a one-hour special of the first concert on Jan. 25. Viewers will be able to contribute to the fund by dialing into a special 1-800 phone number or via mccormicktribune.org/2008firerelief.
Meanwhile, Zeidman and longtime Brooks promoter Ben Farrell have spent months carefully strategizing how each day will play out.
To quickly move the approximately 20,000 fans between each performance, 20 additional doors at the venue will be opened (as opposed to the usual 24 during a sold-out show), and more than 100 extra guest services employees and security workers will be hired to help usher people in and out. As another strategy, merchandise and concession stands within the building will close 30 minutes before each show ends. However, additional merchandise booths will be located outside of the venue. With those forces combined, Zeidman estimates it will take no more than 12 minutes to empty the facility after each concert.
To help run things even more efficiently, using customer data collected through Ticketmaster, Staples Center will send concertgoers several e-mails leading up to the event. The messages will suggest what time to arrive at the venue, provide parking maps and the option to purchase pre-paid parking, and outline general information about merchandise booths and food and beverage. Staples Center will provide approximately 20,000 parking spaces located within a 10-minute walk of the venue, according to Zeidman.
But a smooth schedule will ultimately depend on Brooks himself. “It’s all predicated on Garth playing a two-hour show,” Zeidman notes. “All bets are off if Garth plays two hours and 15 minutes.” Farrell assures that the singer will perform on time. “It1s up to us to start when we say we will, and get off the stage when we say we will — and Garth is going to do that,” Farrell tells Billboard. “I’ll be standing right there on the side of the stage with him.”
But will Brooks have enough stamina to perform five arena concerts in such close proximity? “Garth has a tremendous amount of inner competitive strength,” says Farrell, pointing to the artist1s nine sold-out concerts in November at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. “If he tells you he1s going to do something, he1s going to do it.”