September 28, 2009 — Thursday evening, more than 50,000 people will head to the University of Virginia's Scott Stadium as rock band U2 brings its 360° Tour to Charlottesville, the first concert at Scott Stadium since the Rolling Stones played there four years ago.
Although as many as 60,000 people descend on Scott Stadium at least six times every fall for home football games, and football game procedures form the basis of much of the logistics for concerts, a major weeknight concert also poses unique challenges, said Larry Wilson, general manager of U.Va.'s John Paul Jones Arena and an executive with SMG, U.Va.'s event management partner that played a key role in landing both U2 and the Rolling Stones in 2005.
Lessons learned from the Stones concert are guiding several new measures this time around, Wilson explained.
A helicopter and Virginia Department of Transportation cameras will monitor traffic flow on Interstate 64, allowing real-time updates to directions and messages that will be displayed on 25 electronic message boards placed along I-64, U.S. 29 and other roads leading into parking areas.
SMG e-mailed ticketholders to suggest purchasing parking passes in advance, Wilson said, and provided a map of suggested routes to various parking areas.
Based on the color of their parking permits, drivers will be routed westbound on the U.S. 250 bypass from exit 124 (Pantops) off I-64, as well as north on U.S. 29 from exit 118B. Those with black permits will be directed to use exit 120 from I-64 (Ridge Street), thereby distributing the incoming traffic among three of the four Charlottesville exits off I-64.
The message boards will be particularly helpful to out-of-town visitors, Wilson said. For instance, roadside message boards near exit 118B will direct all concert-goers except those with blue, gold and red parking permits to merge left at the bottom of the ramp, around the traffic waiting to exit onto Fontaine Avenue, and proceed to the next two exits off the 250 bypass (at Ivy Road and Leonard Sandridge Road).
Similar to home football games, roads immediately adjacent to the stadium will be closed at 5 p.m. Thursday to all traffic except concert patrons and area residents. The road closures will include:
- Alderman Road/Maury Avenue, between Ivy Road and Fontaine Avenue
- Hereford Road, between Stadium Road and Edgemont Road
- George Welsh Way
- McCormick Road, between Emmet Street and Alderman Road
- Stadium Road, between Emmet Street and Alderman Road
- Whitehead Road
On Thursday, student and employee permit-holders must vacate most U.Va. parking areas by either 3 p.m. for lots closest to the stadium, or 5 p.m. for most other lots. (Lot-by-lot details here.)
On Thursday afternoon and evening traffic will be heavy around Charlottesville, especially on streets feeding into Emmet Street and the 250 Bypass, said Rebecca White, director of U.Va. Parking and Transportation. Use alternate routes when possible and allow extra travel time, she suggested.
"This is a very logistically challenging event," White said. "We really appreciate everyone's understanding as we absorb the impact. We have developed as many transportation alternatives as we can."
Similar to home football game days, University buses and the Charlottesville Transit Service free trolley will use modified routes. (Maps and details here.)
The University will maintain normal operations during that day, but departments are urged to use their discretion to determine the appropriate staffing levels to maintain services. For those operations that can support it, managers are encouraged to use modified schedules to help alleviate traffic congestion in the University area during Thursday afternoon and evening.
Dozens of workers are currently constructing the 180-ton stage structure, trucked here on more than 100 tractor trailers, likely the largest-ever rock and roll touring stage production, according to its designer, architect Mark Fisher, as quoted in Rolling Stone.
"Several of my staff and I were able to preview the U2 event in Boston," SMG's Wilson said. "This is the most incredible set-up I have seen."
"The U2 360 Tour is stopping in many of the world's finest stadiums during its run," said Tres Thomas, a Charlottesville resident and senior vice president of global operations for Live Nation Global Touring, the show's promoter. "Preparing for the tour's stop at the University of Virginia has taken a great deal of cooperation between many departments within SMG and the University of Virginia to make the event at Scott Stadium a success. U2 is a world-class act performing at a world-class university."