“A festival is a living thing,” Quint Davis said. “It was born this morning, but it won’t really come alive until the people come and make it rock.”
That’s Davis’ expectation for the 2015 Buckeye Country Superfest, which he is directing and producing. He heads Festival Productions, Inc. — New Orleans, a company that has put on the New Orleans Jazz Music & Heritage Festival since 1970.
Beginning in 2010, Davis and his team have also organized country music “superfests,” first in Baton Rouge, La., and then in Jacksonville, Fla.
That brand is set to come to Columbus in June with a lineup that includes Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban. The show, to be held at Ohio Stadium, has been more than a year in the making for FPI, and Ohio State Student Life associate vice president Xen Riggs said the university “got serious” about it four to five months ago.
Davis’ enthusiasm for the show was well on display at a Tuesday press conference when the lineup was announced — and that enthusiasm is also something Davis hopes Buckeye Country will reciprocate next summer.
He said he wants the atmosphere to rival that of the student section at an OSU football game, “otherwise, it’s like the world’s greatest soundcheck,” he said.
The atmosphere is the key to attracting musicians to perform, he said.
“You can’t put on this type of show just because you have a lot of money,” he said. “Every one of these artists has to route their tour to all be in Columbus, Ohio, on the same two days.”
The concert will be the stadium’s first in over a decade. The last came in 2003 and featured Metallica, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit.
Since he came to OSU in 2005, athletic director and vice president Gene Smith said he had been trying to get a concert in Ohio Stadium to expand its use for more than just home football games and commencements.
“We cannot have an asset of this magnitude and of this level of importance to our community and our state sit idle,” he said Tuesday.
The concert is expected to bring $30 million to the Columbus region, Smith said last week.
Construction to the stadium antagonized previous concert efforts, but some renovations, such as the 2007 switch from grass to turf and the recently installed lights, now make hosting a stadium show easier. Ohio Stadium recently had 2,600 seats added, and the stadium will get an extra 8,000 seats on the field for the concert.
Even though major renovations to the stadium are complete for now, Smith said the university will continue to make improvements.
“Every year, we are going to do something that enhances this iconic facility,” Smith said, citing a new Wi-Fi system to be installed next year.
Because Columbus is farther away from FPI headquarters than most of the company’s productions, Riggs said OSU will likely supply 1,500 of the staff members needed — a higher number than other shows he normally produces at the Schottenstein Center. That number is still fewer than the approximate 2,500 people who staff a home football game, senior associate athletics director Mike Penner said.
Though the university’s Department of Athletics will get paid for renting out the stadium, Smith said the real financial benefits are for the city.
“When you have that many people, they end up buying things in the community — going to our restaurants, staying in hotels overnight and buying gas. They’ll spend their dollars here,” he said.
Gary O’Brien, business advancement spokesman for OSU, said the stadium was a major asset to attract FPI and that Columbus was just one of many cities bidding for a FPI production.
“This was very competitive, and we were very fortunate to win out over many other cities in the country,” he said. “However, when you have Ohio Stadium on your side, you don’t lose.”
Organizers said OSU and other parties are working on a multi-year deal to make the Buckeye Country Superfest a lasting fixture in the city.
Though the lineups might change annually, Davis promised the show would continue for “years and years to come.”
Shawn Trell, chief operating officer of AEG Live, which is promoting the festival, said the ultimate goal is to “create an experience.”
Hopefully, he said, “the attendees will be excited about the experience that they had in year one and it grows in the future and just becomes that annual event that is just on the calendar as something people plan on doing.”
Riggs said AEG and FPI have “great credentials,” and he was pleased when they approached OSU. FPI’s reputation was something not lost on Davis, and he played up the eminence of his company after the press conference.
“(Not) U2, The Rolling Stones — no one in the world has a higher level of production than what’s going to be on that field,” Davis said.
Davis had similar praise for Riggs and his team, citing them and the hundreds of shows they produce each year as reasons to bring the “superfest brand” to Columbus.
“I haven’t seen that kind of an in-house concert production company within a stadium organization, college or pro, and that was a big part of our choice,” he said.
The Lantern requested contracts between OSU and relative parties Friday, but O’Brien said the same day the contracts have not been finalized.
Buckeye Country Superfest is also set to feature Lee Brice, Cole Swindell, David Nail, Tyler Farr, Cassadee Pope and Parmalee, and tickets are set to go on sale Oct. 14.
Hayden Grove contributed to this article.