After 86,000 fans had gone home, after a bazillion beer cups were cleaned up, after the massive stage had been removed, after the football field was uncovered — only one thing remained.
The elephant in the stadium.
Would Boise State ever allow something as awesome as the Garth Brooks shows to happen again?
Or was that weekend a one-and-done?
Those two epic July nights were the first major concerts ever held at Albertsons Stadium. Boise State made money, including a $334,000 licensing fee. But did university officials walk away feeling like it was truly worth it? Or was it too much of an organizational migraine?
Now that outdoor concert season has ended, it’s time to ask the question we’ve almost been afraid to ask.
It’s time to speak to Bob Carney, senior associate athletic director at Boise State.
Give it to us straight, man. We can handle it.
“We would love to do another concert in our stadium,” Carney says.
“It was a great experience overall. We had fun doing it.”
“I can tell you,” Carney adds, “it was very challenging logistically to pull together and put on. But if I had a chance to do another one, I would do it.”
Bam. That’s all we needed to hear.
U2? Yes. Pink? Maybe.
There’s only a handful of possibilities for future concerts at Albertsons Stadium — around a dozen, figures Eagle-based promoter Creston Thornton. A concert industry veteran, Thornton owns the Revolution Concert House in Garden City. He’s also the mountain region president of Live Nation, the biggest music promoter on the planet.
In 2018, Thornton brought Pearl Jam to Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Montana, for a sold-out 25,000 people. That same summer, he put on the first major concert in three decades at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Montana, when Imagine Dragons rocked more than 20,000 fans.
But he’s probably not going to bring either of those bands to Albertsons Stadium anytime soon.
To do a financially viable major concert there, he says, would require an audience of 25,000 or more. Actually, a few thousand more. “You’ve gotta do like 30,000-plus just to justify the cost.”
Who could draw that sort of titanic crowd to Albertsons Stadium?
Here’s his list.
▪ AC/DC: “If they did a final run,” Thornton says.
▪ The Who: “I think The Who with Roger Daltrey and everybody, maybe a symphony, then you could get to, like, 30,000.”
▪ The Rolling Stones: “The Stones, if they came back — even though they sold out a high ticket at the Idaho Center (in 2006) — I think it would be huge in the stadium. It’s the Stones.”
▪ Paul McCartney: Thornton has tried to make this happen at Albertsons Stadium for years. He calls it “The Beatle on The Blue.” “Yeah. I still feel good that McCartney would be huge.”
▪ U2: “That Joshua Tree Tour right now is huge.”
▪ Bruce Springsteen: “Springsteen’s never been here, so it would be massive.”
▪ Madonna: “Madonna’s on my list, yeah.”
▪ Taylor Swift: “You’re in a certain demographic, but it’s crossing over.”
▪ Pink: Maybe. “Her numbers have been massive. Pink has gone out and done a bunch of big arenas and everything has gone clean in like a minute. It’s a big deal and a big production.”
▪ Lady Gaga: “I think that crosses over. Pink, Gaga, Cher, any of those acts are going to be, like, crossover, 20 trucks — huge production. Are you going to go see it? You know the music. It’s a big deal and a big production.”
▪ Justin Timberlake: “He’s playing stadiums in major markets. I would put Justin Timberlake on the same level as Taylor Swift. You would probably take a stadium shot here in Boise with both those acts.”
OK, how many was that — 11 potential acts for Albertsons Stadium? And with a question mark or two? After that, things start to become sketchier.
▪ Drake? Bruno Mars? Kanye West?: “I just think that the radio support hasn’t been here long enough, and the population’s not big enough to support it,” Thornton says. “Bruno would blow out for one, maybe two nights in an arena, but that’s 20,000 people. Could you do 30,000 or 40,000? I don’t know.”
▪ Guns N’ Roses: With Axl and Slash and Duff? All reunited? Maybe? “They’re doing stadiums and selling out.”
▪ Pearl Jam: “Pearl Jam, to do 30,000 or 40,000 in Boise ... I think you have to have someone else on the bill like Foo Fighters, like a co-bill. Then you get there.”
▪ Cher: Possibly? “Cher’s going to do her farewell tour. That’s a huge tour.”
▪ Beyonce and Jay-Z: “That was a big stadium tour. But that’s Beyonce and Jay-Z together. Now you’re talking about packaging again. Which is a brilliant thing if you want to fill a stadium.”
How about a festival — something more hardcore? Thornton thinks it might be feasible. “Like a Metallica with a Rage Against the Machine or System of a Down or Rammstein with them. Like a three-band bill. That probably would be a pretty tough security problem. You’d have to look at it. You can only pay so much for security!”
Stars aligned for Garth Brooks
Most of the time, the deck is stacked against concerts at Albertsons Stadium. Three factors make them difficult to accomplish: Field availability, artist availability and financial risk.
For Garth Brooks to happen, the stars had to align.
“We’ve actually tried for several years before Garth to bring a concert in,” Carney says. “... A lot of that depends on just the window that we have available between our summer camps for our football program, and then the start of fall football camps. You sort of have a short window of time in there.
“It all depends on what’s going on. This last year, we were replacing the turf, so that played into it. When does our season start? When is our first home game? When can football start to practice? All of those factors we have to look at.”
Making things trickier? The artist’s tour routing needs to match the stadium’s limited schedule.
Live Nation has requested available dates at Albertsons Stadium in 2020, and Boise State has responded. But there’s nothing to report. Yet.
“We’re hopeful that there’s opportunity in the next routing window to bring something in,” Carney says. “And for us, too, Garth has been out and spoke very positive about Boise and Boise State and Albertsons Stadium. Hopefully, him being that kind of goodwill ambassador for Boise will help bring another show in.”
Thornton, who attended the Friday night Brooks performance, says the entire weekend put Boise on the stadium-concert map.
“Both those nights were really good for the town,” he says. “I only heard great things about it around the industry.”
Carney says doing a concert at Albertsons Stadium isn’t just about making money. It’s also smart marketing and good public relations for BSU.
“It creates a positive impact on the city of Boise, the Treasure Valley and the state of Idaho,” Carney says. “They’re all people that support Boise State athletics. It’s kind of our way to give back, in a way, to the community in a positive way by bringing an event like that to Boise.”
The amount of planning, legwork and manpower that goes into a stadium concert is staggering. Simply covering and protecting the Broncos’ blue turf at the Brooks shows cost $100,000 to $110,000, Carney estimates.
Jaw-dropping numbers like that are why promoters and stadiums tend to be risk-averse when choosing acts.
“It’s the real deal, man,” Thornton says. “You’ve got to be pretty sure when you put a stadium show on. Don’t be throwing darts.”
In many ways, Brooks was the perfect ticket to launch Albertsons Stadium into the concert universe. He uses an in-house promoter — which is highly unusual — meaning the financial risk mostly fell on his company.
Brooks also is a crossover country performer with tremendous appeal in a state like Idaho. Even Gov. Brad Little got into the act, “asking” Brooks to add a second concert in a staged but fun phone conversation shared on social media.
Would the governor of Idaho be interested in a phone call with, say, social-justice activist Bono if U2 came to Albertsons Stadium?
“Well, maybe!” Thornton says with a laugh. “I don’t know that he wouldn’t! I think he’d take that phone call from Bono.
“Is he gonna pick up for Pink?”
Let’s get the party started, Boise. I’m ready to find out.