Are you one of the Garth's 50,000 friends in low places taking in one of his five shows in Billings?
MetraPark is calling it Garth Weekend and the staff is pulling out all the stops to make sure the arena is ready and the fans get in and out of the grounds as quickly as possible.
Twenty semi-tractor trailers were scheduled to roll onto the MetraPark grounds early Thursday with the stage and other equipment for the shows. That's the most semis ever used for one act at MetraPark, according to MetraPark marketing director Ray Massie.
The Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood shows kick off with a 7 p.m. concert on Friday, and continue with two Saturday concerts and two on Sunday.
Alex Tyson, executive director of Visit Billings, said this is the biggest event to hit Billings in a long time.
"From a business point of view, mainly hotels, there are very few events where our hoteliers report back to us that the phone literally goes crazy," Tyson said. "Full hotel rooms mean full restaurants and full attractions."
Motel rooms are 100 percent booked for Saturday night and 70 percent booked for Friday night, according to Hotels.com. There were plenty of motel rooms available for Sunday.
Fans turned to Facebook and other social media to swap tickets for better seats or different dates. More than 50 people posted on the group Facebook page since early May, with most tickets going for face value, which is $74.95. There were still tickets available Wednesday to all five shows on MetraPark’s website, metrapark.com. Additional tickets may be released the day of the show.
All tickets holders received emails this week with instructions on where to park and when to arrive. The information is also available at metrapark.com.
Billings Police Lt. Neil Lawrence advises fans to make a plan for how to get in and out of the MetraPark grounds.
“Think about taking a city cab or Uber,” Lawrence said. “If you’re going to plan on parking in the area, don’t park in a business lot where they don’t want your car. You may find out that it’s been towed. If you are parking in the residential area behind Target, don’t block driveways. People need to do their best to park legally."
The Montana Department of Transportation will alter traffic signals to allow more time for fans exiting the MetraPark grounds. But you should be patient and prepared for a longer-than-usual exit, advised Billings police officer Tom Keightley.
“We’ve tried a couple of different traffic plans to see what would work better, but no matter what, it doesn’t help,” Keightley said. "Honestly, so much of the frustration and stress can be alleviated if they just try to be patient. So many people are trying to get out of there in a hurry. Every big venue, whether it’s a big football game or a concert, has this issue.”
Police will not be directing traffic as they did for the 2016 Carrie Underwood concert and the 2016 Nitro Circus event.
“We’ve learned from past mistakes that we didn’t gain much being out there,” Keightley said.
MetraPark will have 67 security people and another 32 operations people working the grounds and the arena for the shows. The biggest challenge will be getting people out of the grounds after the 3 p.m. shows on Saturday and Sunday and cleaning the arena in time for the 7:30 p.m. concerts on those nights.
“We have 90 minutes to get you out, reset the building and get the next group in. We’ll have 37 cleaners working the building to clean up between shows,” Massie said.