Posted on: 12/16/10




Kenny Chesney's "Goin' Coastal Tour" to kickoff the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater Opening



By Mark Hughes Cobb Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 5:46 p.m. 
Last Modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 5:46 p.m.

Kenny Chesney, with his pal and frequent musical partner Uncle Kracker, will open the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater with a concert March 31.

It's a smaller venue than the country superstar generally plays, but not an indication that his star is fading. Chesney has won Billboard Touring Awards, based on ticket sales, as Best Package Tour for the last five years. He's played NFL stadiums, won four consecutive Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year Awards, had 20 No. 1 hits, including the recent “The Boys of Fall,” and sold more than 27 million albums.

It's another star atop the Christmas tree for creators of the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, who first met almost three years ago on Christmas Eve in Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox's office to discuss the feasibility of building such a venue.

“I think it clearly shows the determination of our city and Red Mountain Entertainment (the Birmingham-based agency which books and consults) to make this a first-class facility,” Maddox said. “It's not just that Kenny Chesney is a big star, but that he crosses genres, which is important to us in building a diverse lineup. And it's especially showing faith in a smaller facility such as ours.”



“I think (booking Chesney) might have something to do with a good relationship with the city, but also the opportunity to open this new, first-class facility,” Maddox said.

Gary Weinberger of RME said they'd pursued Chesney for more than a year, after he played The Wharf at Orange Beach, another venue that the group books.

“We told (Chesney's management) about the place, and just worked on it for several months,” Weinberger said. “This is what we do. We book 150 concerts a year,” matching up artists who are on the road with times, locations and venues that can handle the seating demands and meet the artists' asking prices.

“Certainly this is one of the smallest venues Chesney will play on his new tour,” he said.

The opening concert is a special case. Not all acts booked for the amphitheater will be of such superstar status; Birmingham's own amphitheater is nearby, and with about 7,500 seats available, it won't be possible for Tuscaloosa to get the biggest names, at least not at a ticket price patrons could afford to pay.

“But we wanted to make a statement for the opening by booking one of the biggest, if not the biggest, touring acts in America,” Weinberger said.

The official announcement was made Thursday night at a dedication ceremony for box holders, sponsors, media and those who worked on the project, led by Maddox and Weinberger from the stage where a 30-foot decorated cedar had been erected.

“Three years ago Gary and I met in my office to discuss the potential for an amphitheater,” Maddox said. “Tonight we're taking those discussions close to reality. It feels really good.”


In many ways, reality has exceeded early dreams, he said, with the 2 percent lodging tax paying off the project at minimal cost to taxpayers. “It's more than we imagined three years ago.”

Other acts for the inaugural season will be announced as dates are confirmed. Chesney's people gave special permission to announce the Tuscaloosa date this early.

“This is just Dec. 16,” Weinberger said. “By mid-January, the end of January, we're going to have a plethora of artists to announce.”

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday Jan. 22 for the Tuscaloosa stop on Chesney's 2011 “Goin' Coastal” tour, slated for Thursday March 31. Prices and outlets will be announced later.