How Live Nation Turns Fenway Park Into A Concert Venue
This season marks the 20th anniversary of the Fenway Concert Series. The first of 2023 will be Kane Brown on June 23. But have you ever wondered what it takes to turn Fenway Park into a magical concert venue?
The answer is: 4 days, 275 people, approximately 50 trucks, 2,400 feet of bike racks, 60-ton cranes, 85,000 feet of flooring, and a remarkable amount of attention to precise detail.
A few years ago, I interviewed Live Nation Production Director, Mike Marchetti, to understand this incredible conversion. Here are some of the most fascinating points of how Fenway Park transforms from a baseball field to a concert venue.
How do you determine if Fenway Park can accommodate a concert?
As a production crew, we are advised as to who will be playing, and we have to make it work. The schedule is dictated by Red Sox road trips. We typically need three to four days in front of a production load-in day, that would be a day before the band puts on the actual performance, to put in a show in Fenway.
What is the production preparation going into concert season at Fenway?
Preparation for this summer started in January. The dates were solid, seating maps were built, and site plans were drawn up. Then, our biggest concern is securing a stage. There is one particular staging company that works great in ballparks that we use. They have also now been used at Wrigley and Citi Field. After the stage, you have to make sure you have the generators. Next comes everything else — the chairs, the field cover that protects the grass, and the crew.
What is the week of a concert at Fenway Park like for you and your Live Nation production team?
To compare, at an arena level, the biggest shows are typically 25 truck shows (53 ft. tractor trailer). We’d start pre-rig at 3 am, load-in all day long, and we are ready for doors at 4 pm. We’ll start load-out when the show ends around 10:30 pm. We will finish by 5 am. It’s usually about a 16–24-hour period, regardless of the act, when setting up a show at venue like the TD Garden. With that, we’ll see anywhere from 6–30 trucks.
When you move to the stadium level there is so much preparation that goes on before the band even arrives. Let’s say we have a Saturday show:
On Wednesday (Download and base-out day):
We will get onsite at 6 am and prep the site for personnel. Sixteen forklifts would have been delivered the day before. The first thing we have to do is the protecting of the ballpark before anything comes in. A lot of the concourse, brickwork, and pavement needs to get protected before we can bring any machinery or equipment. That all gets covered, and the material comes in on about two or three semis. After that gets done, we move to protect the warning tracks so we can drive cranes and forklifts in the ballpark. That process takes us until noon.
At 2 pm , the staging trucks will arrive on seven semi-tractor trailers. We have to provide the steps that go over the bullpen in Fenway, so that is also part of it.
We also build a catering compound in the triangle where the ballplayers get dropped off at Fenway and the TV trucks park. This is for the artists’ crew and local crew.
We get everything in, opened up, and laid out the best we can on the first day so we can manipulate the cranes. The first day ends by 10 or 11 pm.
The cranes come in at 7 am and we start to build the stage, towers and steps over the bullpen.
We also bring in the flooring that covers the grass on this day. That’s about 85,000 square feet of product — white plastic to stand and put the chairs on. That gets stored temporarily and will get installed at 6 pm the day before the concert so we can preserve the grass and minimize the amount of time that it’s on the grass.
We bring the generators in on the third day. Miles and miles of cables get brought in over the Green Monster wall through the Gate C door so that we can set up our power transformers stage left and stage right for the band to plug into. The generators are two 36-foot twin packs, sized to the band and what their requirements are.
All the chairs come in, and about 2,400 feet of bike racks to protect the infield and handicap-accessible sections.
We’ll build the stage, which takes two 60-ton cranes. That’s the towers and the roof system. We are up to 25 tractor-trailers at this point. Once the roof is locked off, the band will come in. The roof has to be secure in order for us to rig the band’s equipment.
The band then comes in with usually around 10–12 tractor-trailers of their own equipment. Their production equipment, lights and sound. The band typically arrives around 1 pm and we will finish around 10 pm the night before. In a venue like the TD Garden or an amphitheater, the band’s crew will show up at 8 am, they’d be ready around 2 pm for sound check and they’d play their show at 7pm.
One more truck comes in that will have the video screens that are left and right of the stage, and one small truck that will have delay speakers that go on the warning track, by first base, third base, and home-plate.
The spotlights get put up in the suites, then at 6 pm we’ll lay the plastic on the field to protect the grass. That takes until 2 am. During that time, we can start to mark the floors. We have very precise seating maps.
The dressing rooms get set up with pipes and drapes.
Saturday (show day):
At 6 am, the crew comes up and sets up every chair and labels them.
By 2 pm, we have all our fire inspections. Once we get signed off on we are ready to go.
Doors typically open at 5 pm.
Then, public safety is of the utmost importance for Live Nation with a concert at Fenway Park. We are often communicating with the public safety staff about something minor that may be going on. Little things — that people don’t see.
Here’s the crazy thing, all that prep, and it’s basically a 24-hour process to complete the takedown and clear everything out. It’s all governed by the fact that there is usually a ballgame on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, when the house lights go down, and I hear 40,000 people scream, I get an excitement that I can barely explain. It makes it all worth it.