Following in the footsteps of The Rolling Stones, whose sold-out show last September at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs moved nearly 41,000 tickets and grossed more than $5 million, The Police have announced they will play the famed Louisville racetrack.
The band will perform under the track’s famed twin spires on July 14th. Joining them there as well as on the rest of the North American leg of the tour will be Fiction Plane whose frontman, Joe Sumner, is Sting’s eldest son.
The stage setup will be the same as the Stones’, with approximately 35,000 seats available in portions of the track’s grandstand and clubhouse areas. Limited seating around the concert stage will be positioned on the infield, facing the grandstand.
SMG senior VP Mike Evans said that following the success of the Stones show last year, SMG, which does the booking for all non-racing events at Churchill Downs, began looking at other artists who would be a good fit.
Because Evans was working with The Next Adventure’s Gerry Barad on dates for The Police at other SMG venues, he raised the idea of a show at the Downs.
"Everyone said, ‘You know what? If we can make it work, let’s do it,’" Evans told Pollstar. "The routing came at the right time of the year. It’s after the spring meet and before the fall meet. Everything just sort of fell into place."
When the Stones idea was floated last year, SMG worried that although the staff at the Downs is used to handling large crowds, it would be unprepared for a concert audience.
"The surprising thing was the quality of the staff at Churchill Downs," he said. "We came at them with some really out-of-right-field concepts, like putting the stage up against the turf course and putting seats on the turf course and on the dirt course.
"They raised their eyebrows and then they rolled up their sleeves and said, ‘OK, let’s figure out how to make it work.’"
Evans also praised The Next Adventure.
"We did that Stones show, and 29 days later they had the Breeder’s Cup," Evans said. "I don’t know that there’s a lot of other [companies] that would necessarily work that way. TNA does what it takes.
"Look at The Police routing right now. They’re playing Fenway Park, they’re playing Wrigley Field, they’re playing my stadium in Oakland, where the A’s play. They know that they can’t afford to have any issues with the turf or the outfield. It’s a combination of everybody realizing that if you’re going to play these special places, you have to do it right so you’re invited back."
There are a couple of major artists who do "traditional, big, outdoor shows" that SMG is looking at booking at the Downs this year, but Evans wouldn’t elaborate.