When Tresdon "Tres" Thomas first heard that U2 would tour in 2009, the second person he called was Leonard Sandridge, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Virginia—a man you need to speak with if you plan on throwing a 60,000-person rock show at Scott Stadium. The first person, however, was Larry Wilson.
An employee of venue management company SMG, Wilson currently oversees both the John Paul Jones Arena and The Paramount Theater. Both of Wilson’s venues have hosted world-class tours coordinated by Live Nation, where Thomas works as Senior Vice President of Global Operations. And the story of Wilson and Thomas holds a lot of promise for anyone who hopes to catch a rock spectacle in town, from Springsteen and the Stones to Buffett or Bono.
I met with the pair in Thomas’ makeshift Scott Stadium office, and asked how the U2 show came about before we headed onto the field to see "The Claw," U2’s monstrously proportioned stage, mid-construction. [More after the photo]
Rise up! "The Claw" takes shape in Scott Stadium. More than 100 trucks are currently parked around Charlottesville after delivering pieces of U2’s massive stage.
"When U2 2009 was on the drawing board, I called Larry up and I said, ‘We have a possibility of bringing a larger group back to the stadium. Let’s go see Leonard Sandridge and see if they’re interested in doing it,’" said Thomas. "And we had a meeting and talked to Mr. Sandridge, and he said, ‘You know, I always envisioned the ability to have at least one stadium show every four years at Scott Stadium—to give each incoming student the ability to see one of these and participate in it during their four years here.’" Hey, Mr. Sandridge—we like those numbers!
The relationship between Wilson and Thomas dates back to similar jobs in Nashville, Tennessee—Wilson’s hometown—and Richmond, where Wilson was general manager of the Richmond Coliseum. The pair’s current proximity in Charlottesville (Thomas lives here, as Feedback only recently discovered) certainly doesn’t hurt our chances of nabbing one or two more stadium rock shows.
You look at all the markets that U2 and The Police and the Rolling Stones play, [and] Charlottesville’s one of the smallest markets on the entire tour," said Wilson. "For those three acts to play Charlottesville, whether it be John Paul Jones Arena or Scott Stadium, is huge. And that comes with SMG’s relationship with Live Nation, and Tres living here."
At present, it’s hard to imagine things getting bigger than U2: Gigs like Live Nation’s 2005 Rolling Stones show at Scott Stadium helped set a template for dealing with stadium shows, and U2 has already eclipsed it in scale. (It took 52 trucks to bring in the Stones show; there are already twice as many U2 trucks parked around town, from the JPJ Arena parking lot to Fashion Square Mall.)
But "bigger" is relative—Live Nation teamed with John Paul Jones Arena to give us The Police once, The Boss twice and Dave Matthews Band four times. ("Four sold-out times," clarified Wilson.)
"Having JPJ over there helps me come back to [Thomas] and say, ‘Hey, we’ve done all these shows here. Let’s do a stadium play,’" said Wilson. "So this feeds into that, and that feeds into this."
What Live Nation acts would you like to see Thomas and Wilson bring to Scott Stadium? Leave it below!