STEVE Bruce and his squad will be looking forward to a well-earned rest when the final whistle blows on Sunderland’s home season at the end of the Black Cats’ clash with Wolves on May 14.
But for Gary Hutchinson, SAFC head of venue and events – and North East Chamber of Commerce Sunderland committee chairman – and his team, the end of the Stadium of Light’s Premiership campaign will signal only the most temporary of breathing spaces, with preparations for the five summer concerts beginning immediately.
Gary said: “As of tomorrow, it will be 10 weeks to go until the promoter is here and the final preparations begin.”
And with the five shows attracting more than 250,000 people and pumping £18million into the local economy, the pressure is on to get things right.
“All standard tickets are now sold out – that’s around 55,000 a night – and we only have limited hospitality left for two of the Take That concerts and the Kings of Leon,” said Gary.
The club has been working with around 200 partner organisations, including the city council and Northumbria Police, to ensure a safe and fun time for everyone, both in the stadium and the city centre.
Website www.safcconcerts.com is already up and running but will be stepped up at the end of the month. Tickets will soon be going out, complete with a map insert highlighting just how handy the city centre is for concert-goers.
“In marketing terms, we are moving into phase two of four,” said Gary. “We will shortly be producing a business information document that will go out to all city businesses to help them prepare and be aware of what is coming. The university business school is currently contacting businesses to ensure people can be listed.
“A programme of events is currently being drawn up under the brand of Sunderland Live, and there is a section dedicated to that on the website. It will encompass everything from a farmer’s market to live music and street performers.
“The concert site is the hub for all the information and that will go fully live around the end of March. All ticket purchasers will be directed to it with an e-mail from the ticket agents.
“The emphasis is on doing everything possible to maximise the positive impact for the city now but also in the future in terms of the profile of the event.”
With many concert-goers coming not just from outside the city but the region, the potential for promoting both Sunderland and the North East is huge.
“We have 200,000 people from the North East and around 75,000 from outside the region,” said Gary.
“Every night there will be around 15,000 people coming from Sunderland, so that is around 40,000 people coming to the city who might never have been here before – so there is your opportunity.
“The aim has to be to give them something to do, something to make them come into the city and a reason to come to your venue.”
This summer will be the third year the stadium has hosted concerts.
After Take That and Oasis two years ago and Pink 12 months ago. Gary hopes there will be plenty more to come.
“This year has really cemented us as a concert venue for the future,” he said.
“By the 17th of June this year, we will have had just over half a million people through the stadium for concerts and seen £35million generated for the city over the three years.
“We are currently pushing the venue and the city to promoters for next year.”