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U2 to pay to expand stadium to play Montreal.


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Canwest News Service

MONTREAL – You know a band is beyond big when it needs to build a stadium large enough in which to play.

U2, arguably the most commercially successful group of rockers inthe last two decades, is putting up $3 million to expand Montreal'sHippodrome so it can accommodate 60,000 to 80,000 people for a showthis summer.

It is the only date for which U2 is not performing in a pre-existing stadium.

The fact that the band is fronting the costs of building the venuefor this event is a testament to its love of Montreal, according toJacques Aube, vice- president and general manager of promoter GillettEntertainment Group.

"It's unprecedented," Aube said Monday. "It's historic. It will be the biggest paid show in an open-air stadium in Montreal.

"After the concert, the stadium will be demolished and (the site) will become a real-estate project."

It's also a testament to the grand scale on which a monolithic rockband such as U2 can afford to operate. Tossing in $3 million to build astadium for a night (or maybe two – don't discount the possibility thata second show could be added once the first one sells out) is theprivilege of the mighty, and wealthy.

Gillett and tour promoter Live Nation have been working on thepossibility of a Montreal date for months. The biggest problem wasfinding a venue big enough to host the show (including the150-foot-wide (45 metres) stage, featuring a massive, steel spider-likestructure) and comply with U2's request for an open-air stadium.

The Olympic Stadium's roof is not retractable, so that 60,000-seatvenue wasn't viable; Jean Drapeau Park is too small and the BellCentre, where the NHL Canadiens play, holds only 21,273, and isn'topen-air. Even the Hippodrome, the former racetrack, wasn't big enoughoriginally, which led to talks of constructing a venue specifically forthe July 16 event.

"C'est assez flye comme idee," Aube said. (Rough translation: "It's a pretty wild idea.")

Aube attributed U2's gesture to its love of Montreal and its fans,but it's a good bet the band also is getting bang for its buck.

Do the math and it's not difficult to see that this is amoney-making enterprise. Tickets for the show cost from $30 to $250.Average that out to, say, $100 per ticket, with 70,000 tickets sold,and you've got a cool $7 million.

That's not counting beer and food sales, merchandise, and spinoffCD sales for the band. Aube said the event would inject $10 millioninto the Montreal economy, not counting revenues from the concertitself.

But while nobody's working for free, here, U2 is apparently doingits best to make this affordable to everyone – 55 per cent of thetickets cost less than $55, Gillett proudly announced Monday.

This is U2's first North American stadium tour since 1997's Popmart tour.

U2 performs July 16 at the Hippodrome. Tickets cost $30 to $250 andgo on sale Saturday at noon and can be purchased at www.geg.ca.

Montreal Gazette

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@Fortitude: you're so right. But it should be a symbolic action, so no one feels excluded.

 

Actually: why Montreal? It's a pity that the stadium is going to be demolished after the concert.

 

(just asking, I'm obviously happy for the Montreal fans)

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