PSINet won't be rocking this year

Bands: Summer will be a quiet time at the stadium, dashing hopes the venue would house concerts in the off-season.

April 12, 2000|By Jon Morgan and Sandra Crockett | Jon Morgan and Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

No bands will play, no singers will croon, no dancers will dance in the aisles this summer at PSINet Stadium. Despite hopes to the contrary, the Baltimore Ravens' home will not be the site of a single concert.

"We're disappointed," says John Brown, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, after a report on the lack of bookings was presented to the authority yesterday.

Rocker Dave Matthews opted for RFK Memorial Stadium in Washington, and the HFStival and George Strait's country and western band will go to Landover's FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins.

This will be distressing news to boosters of the $223 million stadium project, who had justified it partially by the amount of other attractions it could draw during the summer, when football was not in season. This would add to the city's cultural offerings, and generate ticket tax revenue and jobs, it was argued.

Oriole Park has never lived up to advance billing in this respect, because baseball's summer season makes non-game events impractical.

The two stadiums, with land and roadwork, cost more than $500 million.

The first and only concert held inside the stadium was the HFStival, a rock music festival organized by radio station WHFS-FM last year on May 29. The Ravens outbid RFK and FedEx Field for that concert, which drew an audience of 75,000 and received good reviews from both critics and fans.

Tickets cost $25 and sold out in 88 minutes in one day. The previous year, the concert was held at RFK.

So why isn't the concert back this year? Brown said HFS officials think that more of their listeners are based in Washington than in Baltimore.

Brown said the concert-booking business is competitive and there aren't that many big concerts requiring outdoor venues. "You can't sell the farm," he said. "When you're negotiating, you don't want to give everything away."

(A spokesman for Cellar Door Productions, the Virginia-based concert promoter handling most of the large musical events in the region, didn't return phone calls seeking comment on the stadium as a concert venue.)

A quiet summer at PSINet will cost the team and state money in lost revenue.

According to the terms of a 1997 agreement with the state, the Ravens are to "actively promote" concerts and other events and share with taxpayers the money made on rent, concessions and parking and other items. The team is allowed to keep the first 10 percent of the profit as a management fee and splits the remainder 50-50 with the stadium authority.

The agreement gives the state the option, if it feels the business is not being pursued with sufficient vigor, to take over the booking operation and get concerts itself.

Brown has no plans to do so. "Clearly, we work better as a team," he said.

But landing some concerts is "something we want to be a little more aggressive on," he said. "We will be working with the Ravens to try to do what we can to market the stadium and will try to do better for next year."

Part of the problem may stem from personnel turnover in the Ravens marketing department, which has now stabilized with a new top executive, Dennis Mannion, vice president of marketing. Mannion was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But the news isn't all grim.

"We were in competition with FedEx Field for the Army-Navy game," Brown said.

And guess who prevailed?

The Army-Navy game will be played at PSINet Stadium for the first time in December, and the state is talking to the Naval Academy about designating the stadium as its home field for the game, meaning it would be played in Baltimore every other year. (Under this scenario, the U.S. Army Academy would get to designate its home field, presumably one closer to its campus in West Point, N.Y.)

"It will be one of the biggest events here in years," Brown said.

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