Billy Joel is coming to Bank of America Stadium. This will be the fourth concert at the Uptown stadium in its 23-year history.
The major news about the show wasn’t the splashy Tuesday morning announcement at the stadium, though. It was the mysterious press release the Carolina Panthers and Live Nation sent out one afternoon earlier, about “a major announcement.” Including Live Nation made it clear that it would be a concert, so we could narrow the list.
Sure, Billy Joel is a huge name. But for Charlotte, having the hometown NFL stadium (finally) host major performances marks a huge shift. It means that at last, Bank of America is open for the concert business.
The stadium has hosted just three concerts since opening in 1996 as Ericsson Stadium, and only two when the musicians were the headliners. Johnny and June Carter Cash played there during Billy Graham’s crusade in September 1996. The next year, the Rolling Stones played at the stadium. About 15 years after that, in 2012, Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw performed.
Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was famously protective of the field, the Charlotte Observer and others have reported. A funding deal with the city of Charlotte allowed for five rent-free days at the stadium per year for events like concerts and festivals, but the city rarely used those.
This is something that David Tepper has been working on since he took over as owner of the Panthers last summer.
“I think there should be more bigger events there, like the right type of concerts in that stadium there really hasn’t been,” Tepper said in his introductory press conference in July 2018. “I want to utilize the stadium for the community.”
Tepper hired Tom Glick as the team’s president a few months later. Glick told reporters Tuesday that he began discussions with Live Nation last October.
Glick wouldn’t put a number on the amount of concerts he’d like to host at Bank of America Stadium moving forward. The team will push for as many as possible.
“We’re open for business, and we’re going to continue to push for more and more events — live music, concerts, sporting events, festivals, you name it.”
Tepper and his team have already landed non-football events at the stadium. Last spring, Untappd Beer Festival hosted its inaugural craft beer festival there. In July, Relevent Sports Group, which operates the International Champions Cup soccer exhibition, announced a five-year deal to host professional international soccer matches there.
A major hurdle was convincing concert promoters that even though Bank of America Stadium hasn’t hosted a major concert in years — and hasn’t ever hosted non-football events consistently — that the facility would be a good music venue.
With a lack of experience, any venue runs the risk of underselling tickets, being unprepared logistically and even embarrassing the artist, says Mark Hart, the Panthers chief operating officer, whom Tepper hired last December.
“How do they know you’re going to do it right?” Hart said.
Hart was the vice president of development with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Tepper was previously a minority owner. In building the non-football business at Bank of America Stadium, Hart and Tepper are carrying over lessons they learned in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers’ home, Heinz Field, has hosted so many concerts over the years that it has its own Wikipedia page. Some of the major acts to perform there include Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Garth Brooks — all of whom have gone to Atlanta, Raleigh, and Columbia, S.C., when Charlotte wasn’t an option.
Pittsburgh also has an 8,000-seat indoor/outdoor amphitheater called Stage AE. It opened in 2010, under Hart, and has hosted big-name artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Cake and Girl Talk. Tepper could opt to build something similar to complement Bank of America Stadium — or even the new practice facility in Rock Hill.
Hart and Glick have gradually built a team of a half-a-dozen people in Charlotte to lead entertainment efforts. They’ll be tasked with landing other big-name acts to keep Charlotte on the list of stadium-tour venues moving forward.
“The important thing to note beyond Billy Joel is that we’ll have more shows to come, and that’s very exciting for us,” Glick said.