KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan probably feels he climbed the highest mountains and run through the fields in bringing U2 to Arrowhead Stadium for Tuesday’s stop on The Joshua Tree Tour 2017.
“I started working on U2 when I was in Philadelphia,” said Donovan, who joined the Kansas City front office in 2009 after six seasons with the Eagles. “When you work that long on a project like that and you see the fruition right here – like there’s a U.S. tour, it’s a stadium tour, we got it.”
The concert comes just five days before the team plays its season opener against the Eagles on Sunday. The preparation for this week began months ago to ensure the grass field at Arrowhead Stadium remains in peak condition for an NFL game.
Donovan hoped to land a date on the tour’s first leg in April or May far from the football season. That scheduling didn’t work out for a variety of reasons.
“So they go to Europe, they come back, they decide because of the success their going to keep going, and we were all in,” Donovan said. “They called us and said here’s the date, and we said we’ll figure out a way to make that work.”
Donovan said the team and its grounds crew remain confident that the turf can recover quickly after the show.
“The good thing about September is we can respond pretty quickly with the grass,” Donovan said. “We go into the season growing the grass knowing we have a concert.”
Arrowhead emerged as a popular destination for summer stadium tours since Donovan’s arrival. Most of those take place in June and July, however, when the field has almost a month to recover before preseason games begin.
Arrowhead Stadium has hosted just one September concert since the conversion to natural grass, according to ConcertArchives.org. That was a date on Taylor Swift’s tour in 2011. The Chiefs returned to Arrowhead eight days later.
Donovan said that technology and production techniques continue improving, leaving less of a mark on fields following big events.
“From a build structure standpoint, there’s a couple of key points where the weight’s distributed, Donovan said. “We know where they are, and we sort of prepare for that going in.”
He also said adjustments to the staging will accommodate the needs of Arrowhead to host a football game shortly afterwards.
“There’s an understanding in our case for instance,” Donovan said, “we have already made adjustments where we will build this stage differently than other NFL stadiums because we have a game four or five days later. And they get that, and they understand that.”
Arrowhead isn’t the only NFL stadium on U2’s fall leg of the tour. Seven of the nine stops take place in NFL stadiums. Only five, however, have grass field. The other grass field — the Arizona Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium — uses a tray system allowing removal of the field for concert.
Donovan’s team tracks each concert at Arrowhead and documents the field’s condition, he said. He believes the grass doesn’t sustain as much damage as one might think.
“You’ll still see some discoloring based on how it goes, but the field will play as it should play or else we wouldn’t take the risk,” Donovan said.
Arrowhead Stadium hosts other guest in September aside from U2. The annual college football Fall Classic featuring Northwest Missouri State against Central Missouri kicks off at 4 p.m., Sept. 30. Nearly 24 hours after the conclusion, the Chiefs host Washington for Monday Night Football.
The NFL and the Chiefs dictated the 2014 Fall Classic move from Arrowhead due to a forecast for snow. The Chiefs played the next day, and the league recommending protecting the field ahead of the game.
Arrowhead Stadium hosts three Chiefs games, the concert and a college football game in just 20 days. Donovan said they believe milder September conditions allow the stadium’s turf to survived the pounding.
“It’s a little harder to recover later in October, later in November,” Donovan said. “We take a lot more care then, we don’t take as much risk then. But we feel very confident we’ll be fine coming out of this one.