U2 builds stadium to play

MONTREAL – It’s confirmed. U2 will play Montreal on July 16, 2010. The band will perform on the polo field at the Montreal Hippodrome, kicking in $3 million for the construction of a temporary open-air stadium to fit between 60,000 to 80,000 people.

It is the only date for which U2 is not performing in a pre-existing stadium. The fact that the band is fronting the costs of building the venue for this event is a testament to its love of Montreal, according to Jacques Aubé, vice-president and general manager of promoter Gillett Entertainment Group.

“It’s unprecedented,” Aubé said Monday. “It’s historic. It will be the biggest paid show in an open-air stadium in Montreal.

“After the concert, the stadium will be demolished and (the site) will become a real-estate project.”

It’s also a testament to the grand scale on which a monolithic rock band such as U2 can afford to operate. Tossing in $3 million to build a stadium for a night (or maybe two - don’t discount the possibility that a second show could be added once the first one sells out) is the privilege of the mighty, and wealthy.

Aubé attributed U2’s gesture to its love of Montreal and its fans here, but you can bet the band is also getting bang for its buck.

Do the math and it’s not hard to see that this is a money-making enterprise. Tickets for the show cost from $30 to $250. Average that out to, say, $100 per ticket, with 70,000 tickets sold, and you’ve got a cool $7 million.

That’s not counting beer and food sales, merchandise, and spinoff CD sales for the band. Aubé said the event would inject $10 million into the Montreal economy, not counting revenues from the concert itself.

But while nobody’s working for free, here, U2 is apparently doing its best to make this affordable to everyone - 55 per cent of the tickets cost less than $55, Gillett proudly announced Monday.

Gillett and tour promoter Live Nation have been working on the possibility of a Montreal date for months. The biggest problem was finding a venue big enough to host the show (including the 150-foot-wide stage, featuring a massive, steel spider-like structure) and comply with U2’s request for an open-air stadium.

The Olympic Stadium’s roof is not retractable; Jean Drapeau Park is too small; even the Hippodrome wasn’t big enough originally, which led to talks of constructing a venue specifically for the event.

“C’est assez flyé comme idée,” Aubé said. (Rough translation: “It’s a pretty wild idea.”) The last time U2 was in town was in November, 2005. The band performed two sold-out nights at the Bell Centre, with opening act the Arcade Fire.

This is U2’s first North American stadium tour since 1997’s Popmart tour. Apparently Bono and his boys still have something prove.

U2 performs July 16 at the Hippodrome. Tickets cost $30 to $250 and go on sale Saturday at noon