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Setting the Stage

U2’s much-anticipated appearance on campus Oct. 3 will not only mark the end of Carter-Finley Stadium’s 11-year hiatus from holding special events, it will also highlight NC State and U2 lead singer Bono’s shared passion for environmental issues while helping to bring more than 1,500 temporary jobs to workers in our community.

“We’re in this for one reason and one reason only – to boost the economy for the university and the city of Raleigh,” said Ray Brincefield, assistant athletics director for outdoor facilities at NC State. “It’s a great thing to be able to use our football stadium to aid the local economy.

“Our mission was to employ people who would otherwise not have a job for that week,” he said. “There’s no cost to the athletic department or the university, and no tax dollars are being used to bring this show to Carter-Finley Stadium.”

Beginning the evening of Sunday, Sept. 27, hundreds of workers will be on hand, waiting for football practice to end so they can begin to cover the Wayne Day Family Field turf with a state-of-the-art aluminum decking specifically designed to protect the integrity of the field’s infrastructure – drainage, communications and irrigation systems, and more.

Then, beginning on Monday, workers will begin to bring in U2’s elaborate, in-the-round stage setup, which – when assembled – will soar vertically at heights parallel to Carter-Finley’s upper seating decks – or higher. Brincefield got a first-hand look at the construction on a recent trip to Massachusetts, where U2 sold out Boston’s Gillette Stadium.

“It takes about three days for hundreds of laborers and steel workers to erect this lighting and sound structure that will go over the stage – six cranes and 25 forklifts running all the time,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive.”

While construction is taking place, Brincefield will be on hand, working with Live Nation staff on pre-, concurrent-, and post-concert logistics. For example, the Carolina Hurricanes hockey club opens regular season play at the adjacent RBC Center on Friday, Oct. 2 – “production day” for the U2 crew.

“It’s really important for us to get out in front of everything and talk about logistics because nobody’s stadium – or situation – is the same,” he said. “ Their production areas, offices, their catering, lay-down yard, where they’ll park 128 tractor-trailers… all those things have to be laid out on a map before they even arrive.”

As the show draws closer, Brincefield and his staff will be putting in longer hours, supervising the installation of phone and data-access lines, merchandise locations and corporate sponsorships. All the while, the 12-person staff will ensure that the rest of the university’s facilities continue to run like clockwork.

“Hosting this concert is a really big deal for us, and it’s a huge changeover from football.,” Brincefield said “That being said, we’re certainly not going to cancel next week’s soccer match, or fall baseball because of this show.

“We’re going to have all of those things and make them work,” he said. “We just have to be wise with our time. When the lights go out at Carter-Finley stadium each night, that’s when we’ll leave.”

NC State chancellor Jim Woodward said the university is delighted to host U2 not only because of the band members’ talent, but also because of their collective character and community-minded approach to performing and serving people around the world – a mindset similar to that possessed by NC State students, faculty and staff.

‘“U2 always has been tenacious and focused on and off stage,” Woodward said. “They make a difference – musically, socially, economically – and NC State is proud to be a part of that.”

As they have been at the Wolfpack’s first three football games this season, WeRecycle bins will be distributed throughout Carter-Finley Stadium during the U2 concert. The program, which began in 2003, is regarded as one of the nation’s premier stadium recycling efforts.

Fans turned in three tons of recyclables during NC State’s win over Gardner-Webb on Saturday and, with an increased stadium capacity to almost 64,000 for the U2 concert, it’s possible NC State fans could set a single-day recycling record at the stadium on October 3.

“We hope to never have an event at Carter-Finley Stadium without recycling,” Brincefield said. “This program continues to grow – we have had some great corporate sponsors and have been able to expand from inside the stadium to outside, then into Vaughn Towers and the suites as well.”

Following the performance, Live Nation Global – the concert promoter – will replace the Carter-Finley turf at their own expense, returning the field to ideal playing conditions in advance of NC State’s home matchup with Duke on Oct. 10. Concerns about potential issues with the turf were alleviated through careful planning and consultation with Live Nation executives, as well as NC State agronomics experts and the football coaches and staff.

But admittedly, replacing the field’s playing surface mid-season is a less-than-ideal scenario, Brincefield said.

“Coach O’Brien is a great guy with a lot of experience, and we didn’t make any of these decisions without him being involved,” Brincefield said, of concert discussions that dated back to mid-March. “We were able to make him feel comfortable that during the Duke game, nobody would even notice that we had this show the week before, so he was comfortable with us going through with this concert.”

Prior to U2, the last performers scheduled to play Carter-Finley Stadium were George Strait and Jimmy Buffet in 1998. However, recently completed stadium renovations put Carter-Finley on par with some of the best and biggest outdoor facilities in the country, and opened a window of opportunity for promoters to inquire about the stadium’s availability for performances.

For example, U2 has booked shows at grandiose facilities like Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl and the Dallas Cowboys’ brand-new stadium in Texas, and selected Carter-Finley over other regional possibilities such as Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium – home to the Carolina Panthers – and Chapel Hill’s Kenan Stadium.

“One of our big talking points in the spring was that not only have our people’s donations and the stadium renovations paid off for our football program, but it’s paid off on a world level that a company like Live Nation Global would contact us and we would have the ability to turn them down – and they would continue to contact us,” Brincefield said.

“That says a lot – not necessarily for me and my staff, but for the alumni, faculty, staff and students of this university, our Wolfpack Club members and the construction teams that built that we have we have – a place that we can be proud of and one that is in demand.”

That doesn’t mean that Carter-Finley Stadium will be the next live-entertainment hotspot, hosting concerts on regular basis, Brincefield said.

“We’ve barely cracked open the door to being a host for special events – our mission is for our student-athletes,” he said. “No matter who calls or who shows up, no matter what kind of offer they bring, it starts and ends with our student athletes and we’ll work from there.

“If it’s a situation where we can make something work, then we’ll look further into it,” he said. “We’re not going to be this cracker-jack bunch that opens the doors to everyone just to make a little bit of money – that’s not our mission, and it never will be.”

In fact, in their line of work, the single thing that makes Brincefield and his staff the happiest is if they go completely unnoticed.

“We’ll probably all have shed 10 to 15 pounds and have worked so hard that we won’t know which way is home, but if we leave Carter-Finley Stadium on October 10 and nobody has noticed anything but the game play – nobody says anything about the field – we’ve done our jobs,” he said. “That’s how and why we exist.

“Besides, I don’t know if I can take the stress of tearing out turf and putting in turf right in the middle of the season again,” he said with a laugh. “There’s already a lot to do and we haven’t even started the process yet.”