With days to go before the big show, crews were hard at work Friday giving Washington-Grizzly Stadium its Paul McCartney makeover.
Readying the stadium for Tuesday night’s concert isn’t that different from preparations for the Rolling Stones in 2006, said Chuck Maes, the University of Montana’s associate athletic director for internal operations, who oversees events at athletic facilities.
If anything, he said, the Stones’ build was even more intricate. Still, the logistics are staggering.
“We’re going to have more than 25,000 people in here. I don’t know where you could have a bigger show in Montana,” Maes said.
A little more than 23,100 people came to the Rolling Stones show eight years ago.
Even though a Grizzly home football game will hit similar attendance numbers, Maes said during a game, the audience is generally more familiar with getting to and from the stadium, and tends to show up over a longer period of time leading up to the start.
For McCartney, doors open at 6 p.m. for an 8 p.m. show. Maes hopes concert-goers show up early to avoid traffic jams and for the official pre-show tailgate outside of the stadium, which starts at 5 p.m.
“If I get 25,000 people all showing up at 7, it’s going to be gridlock like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
A “Concert Survival Guide” has been posted online at gogriz.com and griztix.com giving concertgoers more information about how to get to the show, including parking and shuttles that will run before and after the event. The guide also details items that won’t be allowed into the show, such as backpacks and large purses, as well as seat cushions and stadium seats.
On Monday, the first contingent of McCartney’s setup crew arrived in Missoula, installing the flooring – brought in on four semitrailers – on top of the field. When that was finished, 14 more semis delivered all the materials for the stage, which were stacked in a parking lot near the stadium while crews worked.
On Friday morning, two cranes were brought in to begin construction on the stage. By midday, they had lifted 14 of the 60-foot tall towers on the stage into place. The center of the stage will be covered by a roof, the sections on either side will house 60-foot video screens.
Extra staircases have been put in from the stands to the field, where 7,000 of the attendees will sit, stand and – most assuredly – dance.
“You already feel the buzz in the air here in Missoula,” said Doug Clouse, senior vice president of touring for AEG Live, promoters of the “Out There” tour.
More than 160 stage hands are being used to put up the stage. Most of them work for Rocky Mountain Rigging Productions, which handles events across the western United States, including concert setups at The Gorge in Washington state.
“About 85 to 90 percent of the stage hands for the show are Missoula based,” Maes said.
Clouse said it was important to use as many local resources as possible, not only because it means not having to bring them in from hundreds of miles away, but also because it is part of the economic boost a big show like McCartney’s brings to town.
Once McCartney’s show in Minneapolis on Saturday ends, all of its equipment will be packed and trucked to Missoula on 10 buses, which should arrive Monday. Clouse said there’s something special about putting shows on in smaller cities like Missoula that draw people from around the region, rather than to concert mainstays such as Los Angeles.
“You want that magic of going to new places,” he said.
Maes said McCartney’s show includes a 30- to 40-song set list, with his performance lasting about three hours.
About 800 UM employees, from ticket takers and concessions workers to a private security team, will be brought in to work the show, Maes said. The university also recently finished installing new handrails in the seating on the east and west sides of the stadium.
Maes said over the years, the Adams Center has built a great reputation for both its indoor shows and ones in the stadium, and he expects Tuesday’s show to only expand that vibe.
“Promoters and bookers can look and say, ‘Oh, they’ve done the Stones, they’ve done McCartney,’ and know we can handle theirs,” he said.