The Rolling Stones are in town for the first concert in Ohio Stadium in over a decade and the first of three stadium shows coming to Columbus this summer. Xen Riggs, Ohio State’s associate vice president for business advancement and executive associate athletic director, helped organize the three shows coming to the Horseshoe over the next few months and is excited to bring large-scale events back to campus.
“There have only ever been seven concerts at Ohio Stadium,” Riggs said. “In terms of number of days we are adding more than 50 percent to that in one summer.
“We want to give value back to the community and this certainly is a way. It’s an economic impact driver.”
Metallica was the last band to play in Ohio Stadium, packing the venue back in 2003, but concerts are back in full force. In addition to this weekend’s Rolling Stones show the stadium will host Buckeye Country Superfest in late June, a two-day country music concert featuring stars of the genre Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban, and the pop group One Direction comes to town Aug. 18. Tickets for all three shows are still available.
The long drought of concerts was not due to a lack of interest. Ohio Stadium has undergone a number of renovation projects over the last 12 years and that work is done over the summer, conflicting with the tour schedule of stadium shows. Furthermore, with so few acts able to fill the stadium – which has a capacity of around 60,000 for concerts as the south stands are behind the stage and inaccessible– is not easy.
“It's just that we haven't been lucky enough to match up with a promoter that was willing to put an event in the stadium,” director of athletics Gene Smith said. “You don't see many big stadium events around, frankly, the world anymore, so we were fortunate that Xen continued to pound it and pound it.
"We want to keep pushing. It's an iconic facility that just sits there. It doesn't make sense not to use it. You have to find a way. We're fortunate that we have a talent like Xen that has all these international connections where he can keep challenging as far as what we can do to make a deal work."
Riggs, who is also in charge of events at the Schottenstein Center and Nationwide Arena, said that for a stadium show “you kind of take everything you do for an arena show and multiple times 10.”
Ohio State, which did not release the financial agreements for the concerts, is responsible for all stadium operations during the show, including staffing, security and ticketing, while the university also promotes the show locally. That last part is particularly important given the massive size of Ohio Stadium. Though Saturday’s show has sold more tickets than any venue on the Stones tour, according to Riggs, the show is not sold out.
The Stones tour has been working with Ohio State to prepare for the show since May 21 with teardown expected to be completed by Monday, Riggs said, assuring Buckeye fans that the staff is very careful and deliberate in all preparation to ensure the field remains pristine for the football team this fall.
For the first time in 12 years an act besides the Ohio State football team will be playing in Ohio Stadium this weekend as Riggs delivered on Smith’s marching orders to ensure the university and community was capitalizing on the facility.
“We have this giant asset on campus and in the community,” Riggs said. “(Smith) really had a strong desire to make it a better asset than just for seven or eight football Saturdays every year.”
This weekend it’s a Rock and Roll Saturday.