June 5, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Seeing The Rolling Stones is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some.
Prior to this summer, seeing them at Bobby Dodd Stadium certainly seemed to be.
That will change Tuesday night when The Stones play Bobby Dodd for the first time since Nov. 21, 1989.
While no current students would have been getting their ya-ya’s out at back in `89, just about all have heard of these men of wealth and taste, be it collectively as The Stones or individually as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ron Wood. They are rock and roll royalty and their selecting Bobby Dodd as one of 15 venues on their current Zip Code Tour of North America is a big deal.
“People just don’t realize how long and how many great songs they have,” said Georgia Tech Deputy Director of Athletics Brett Daniels, who admitted he’s excited to see them live for the first time. “They’re a group that, to me, just covers all the generations and all the years with the songs they’ve put out there. Their catalog of music is just so vast.”
For Bobby Dodd, college football royalty — it’s the third-oldest stadium in existence — it’s a return to relevance in the entertainment arena.
“It’s exciting for us here at Georgia Tech to host an act like the Rolling Stones,” said Daniels. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that in the `80s and `90s there are a number of acts that did perform here. Pink Floyd, Jimmy Buffett, there are some prominent acts that performed here back in the day and we’ve been trying the last few years to get some of those acts to come back here to campus. Finally the timing was right with the Rolling Stones going back on tour. The fact that they played here years ago, people remembered that and it just kind of fell into place to get them to back. We hope this is the beginning of something that we see each year moving ahead.”
Tuesday night’s show, which begins at 8:00 p.m., with St. Paul & the Broken Bones opening, is the stadium’s first concert since May 3 and 4, 1994, when Pink Floyd brought The Division Bell Tour (the highest grossing tour in rock history at that time) to Atlanta.
While that last show seems about 100 years ago and that to some Bobby Dodd is 2000 light years from home when it comes to current outdoor concert venues, the challenge of bringing it back is exciting.
“It’s been a while and there have been some changes to the stadium and surrounding areas so it’s almost like starting fresh, starting all over again, planning and all that,” said Assistant AD/Facilities, Operations & Events John Portland. “There wasn’t much history as to what took place in the past to what is taking place here over the next couple of days. We’re happy to be partners with AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) [Live] and hosting the Stones at Bobby Dodd.”
For Portland, the enormity of the show began at 6:45 on Thursday morning when an entourage of 18-wheelers came rolling in after being broken down from the June 3 show in Minneapolis, at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. If the `89 show brought “Steel Wheels,” “Zip Code” is bringing enough steel to cover the rest of the train (AEG Live isn’t keeping specific numbers as far as the stage).
“A lot of equipment is showing up today. Friday, Saturday and Sunday is three days of steel. We have 25 to 30 trucks just of steel coming into the stadium,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “How we do that, being that we have one tunnel in and out and we’re pretty much shoehorned in with North Ave. and Techwood and Bobby Dodd, there’s not many places to put 25 to 30 18-wheelers. So just trying to coordinate that, figure it all out, how to make it all work, that’s kind of our role. Then, on event day, concert day, it’s very similar to football game day, where we’re marking traffic, concessions, we’re kind of overseeing all that to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
The challenge of pulling off an evening where fans remember The Stones rocking out rather than having their experience shattered (shadoobie) in simply getting in and around Bobby Dodd is a key part of the challenge Portland has embraced, especially with an audience that may not have ever been to the stadium.
“There will be a lot of unique visitors,” he said. “We’ll have some football fans and some Georgia Tech fans but we’re going to have a lot of people from out of town, a lot of people from the community that may not be Georgia Tech fans and have never been to Bobby Dodd Stadium. So coming to campus for the first time, seeing the stadium, seeing the show is going to be exciting for a lot of people. There’s a real good buzz about it.”
Ideally, Jagger will be the only person that “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”
“Satisfaction is what it’s all about,” said Daniels. “Our biggest challenge is going to be the fans and making sure everybody here comes in and has a good time. I’ve emphasized with everybody is we want the customer-service experience here to be great because we want more acts to come back and if fans leave here satisfied that they had a great time, saw a great show, then it’s a win-win for everybody and who knows who we might have out here next summer?”
The band’s satisfaction with the venue made the show possible, changing the minds of promoters.
“The Rolling Stones, they really wanted to be outside. That was a big part of it,” Daniels said. “Obviously, they’ve got a great facility down at the Georgia Dome, but it has a roof on top of it. So if you want to be outside and you want to play to a crowd of 40,000 people, this place was the perfect fit for them.”
Others are exploring whether it’s a perfect fit as well.
“We’ve been trying to land a concert here from a year or so and a lot of people would come and take a look at the stadium and real quickly dismiss it because of the challenges of being where we are, some of the challenges of having a stadium as big and as old as the one we have,” said Portland. “Now that AEG and the Stones have said, `Hey, we’re doing Bobby Dodd,’ my phone has been non-stop with some of these other promoters saying, `If the Rolling Stones can do it, WE can do this. Now we have to see HOW we do it.’ So in that instance it is a big help for possible future concerts.”
Daniels, who noted the window for future concerts between the end of Spring Football and the start of Fall Practice is small, dismissed any long-lasting effects on the Grant Field surface from the concert — specifically the South end zone, where the stage will be.
“We’re ready if we need to to re-sod that once they move out,” he said. “The seating area may see some damage but we don’t think it will be significant enough that we can’t get that repaired and we still have a couple of months before we really spend much time on that field. So it should be plenty of time to get it back up and it in perfect shape for the games.”
There is another omen that might get the attention of Jackets football fans. The last time Bobby Dodd hosted the Stones, the team beat Georgia 18 days later, 33-22, then followed that up by going 11-0-1 in the 1990 season to earn a share of the National Championship.
“We hope that that’s a good sign for our upcoming season,” said Daniels. “We have a talented team coming back but we have a tough schedule. So we’ll take that as a good sign for what lies ahead in the next 12 months.”
You can’t say they never tried.
For the most comprehensive information regarding the June 9 concert, visit our Rolling Stones 101 page.
TICKETS & PARKING: A limited number of tickets are still available through Ticket Alternative. Click here to purchase tickets and event parking online.