Paulson Stadium's going to be jumping this week, and it's not even football season. With less than a week until Tim McGraw's Friday night show, preparations are in full swing.
Tractor trailers with concert gear will start arriving as early as Tuesday, said Teresa Thompson, Georgia Southern's vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
"They'll spend a tremendous amount of time putting up the stage and sound equipment," she said. "Tim McGraw will fly in sometime on Friday."
Hundreds of students will be assisting in putting on the show Friday night, she added, which gives good on-the-job experience for the students.
McGraw has sold more than 40 million units and dominated the charts with 31 #1 singles. He's won three Grammy Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, 10 American Music Awards, three People's Choice Awards and numerous other awards.
Georgia Southern aims to have a spring concert every two to three years, and preparations for the McGraw show started two years ago, Thompson said.
"It's a major endeavour, and the students have really pushed to have concerts," she said.
McGraw marks the second country artist in a row to play at Paulson Stadium. Bands are chosen through several factors. "It's a really, really complicated process," Thompson said.
There's availability, price, and even other concerns - Kanye West declined to play at Georgia Southern in 2005 even after signing a contract because the venue was outdoors. Thompson said that also was a sticking point in negotiations with Alicia Keys and Usher.
McGraw was headed down the East Coast for a series of concerts, so GSU booked him after negotiations. "He's very popular, so we're looking forward to hosting him."
"A lot of it depends on who can draw in a big venue like that," Thompson said. "You've also got to consider the draw from the local areas, too."
Another factor is artist sponsorships. Being a university, Georgia Southern has some restrictions. Alcohol sponsorships are a no-no, which kept McGraw from coming three years ago when his main sponsor was Bud Light.
"Sometimes some artists are sponsored by things like that - liquor, alcohol - that we can't bring to campus because that wouldn't fit into the proper processes at a university," Thompson said.
Georgia Southern polls students to see which artists they want in Statesboro, and then distills that to a list of seven.
"Depending on that top seven, it's who we can get," Thompson said. "We rarely have gotten our first choice at any time."
Georgia Southern isn't necessarily looking to turn a profit from the show. It's considered a student activity, and students already pay a student activity fee. On the other hand, several sponsors have signed on for the McGraw show to donate scholarship money.
"It's a big show, and they want to get out in front of a large number of students," Thompson said. "For the first time, we're raising about $75,000 to $100,000 in scholarships for our students."
Thompson said that ticket sales are strong, and like in previous shows, she expects a last-week surge in buying. "That's where you sell the bulk of your tickets," she said.
The tickets are more expensive than other shows at Paulson. The Brad Paisley show cost $25 for students and $35 for everyone else. McGraw's a bigger act, though, and that increases prices, Thompson said.
"We kept the ticket prices well below what you'd normally pay for a Tim McGraw concert for our students," Thompson said. "Usually, the minimum ticket price is about $56."
Tickets start at $28 for stand seating for students, and $35 for field tickets. Faculty pay $38 for stand and $45 for field, and general public prices are $50 for stand and $55 for field tickets.
Tailgating will be allowed at the concert, but no alcohol, coolers or lawn chairs will be allowed inside Paulson Stadium. Blankets are allowed, and gates open at 6 p.m.
"It'll be much like a football game," Thompson said.
Paid event parking will start at 4 p.m. on Friday at the Stadium and the RAC, and will cost $20 for cars, $50 for RVs and $100 for buses.
McGraw, who co-starred with Sandra Bullock in the hit film "The Blind Side," is currently shooting Screen Gems' "Love Don't Let Me Down" in Nashville with co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester.
The concert is funded by ticket sales and student activity fees and is sponsored by Eagle Entertainment, a student-run group responsible for bringing varied entertainment acts to the Georgia Southern University campus.