CHICAGO (CBS) — How does a ballpark transform into a concert venue in a matter of days? Carl Rice is the vice president of the restoration and expansion efforts for Wrigley Field and also oversees all the large-scale events. He’s the man who’s in charge of making it happen.
Rice says the transformation project begins even before the last home game ends.
“Immediately when that game ended, actually during the game, the concert folks started to work on getting ready for the show,” Rice says. “We close streets to bring in the semis and the equipment. It’s fascinating with how fast they are able to get this all together and get ready for a show.”
On this recent day, more than 150 people are setting up for the Billy Joel concert at Wrigley Field.
“They are actually building the performance deck that Billy will be playing on that sits on top of what they call the subdeck,” Rice says.
There are miles of wire, rigging, speakers, crews physically building a massive 80-foot stage from the ground up, a stage that stands in front of the centerfield scoreboard.
“It takes about two and a half days to build the stage to get ready of the show,” Rice says. “The enormity of the stage is just incredible. People’s jaws drop when they walk in and see the stage.”
The last task is laying down 80,000 square feet of panels that protect the field.
“We put that down at the very last moment that we can to try to give the grass a chance to breathe,” Rice says. “It takes about eight hours to lay down the covering where the chairs are set up on the field.”
Wrigley began hosting musical acts in 2005 with Jimmy Buffett. Now it’s become part of the summer schedule with four concerts this year.
“It’s amazing to think that you know we’ve been in this, now I think this is the 11th year of concerts here and all the artists that have come through the ballpark,” Rice says.
Rice says music and Wrigley Field has become a special experience for fans and artists alike.
“The artists have all realized how special it is to play here,” Rice says. “The neighborhood feel, the closeness of the fans to the stage, the fact the age of the stadium you know being 100 years old.”
After a weekend of the Piano Man and Foo Fighters, the crew will be ready to do it all over again after a week of baseball. The Zac Brown Band will play at Wrigley Field on Sept. 11 and AC/DC moves in Sept. 15.
Rice says they’re already thinking about next year.
“It has to do with the availability of our baseball schedule and then what artists are planning on touring,” Rice says. “About this time of the year, we start talking about next year. Artists are starting to make their plans, and they start thinking about what type of venues they want to play. We start to coordinate with artists based on our schedule.”