It already hosts professional soccer. It’s about to host professional rugby. And it looks like large concerts and music festivals could be next for Sacramento’s Bonney Field.
The stadium on the grounds of Cal Expo will host an electronic dance music festival on March 5, the first major musical act at the field since it opened in June 2014. Tickets went on sale last week for Life In Color, an electronic music series with stops over the next few months in Las Vegas, Peru, Bolivia and Miami. The events are dubbed “the world’s largest paint parties” and have drawn thousands of concertgoers in some cities.
Eric Blockie, general manager of Bonney Field, said Spectra, the company that operates the stadium, recently acquired a stage for Bonney Field. The stage will be used to elevate VIP seating for soccer matches, but could also serve concerts and other special events, he said.
“If there was an opportunity for a show to come in that might be a little on the bigger side, then Cal Expo and Spectra would certainly take a look at it,” Blockie said.
Cal Expo CEO Rick Pickering said the new stage can be rolled to the center of the playing field to accommodate events drawing around 4,000 people or remain at the southern end of the field for shows attracting audiences in the range of 12,000 spectators. He said Bonney Field potentially could host musical acts during the annual state fair.
In addition to the stands, Pickering and Blockie said, hundreds of concertgoers could also stand on the field during events.
“There is a desire and intent to do some musical festivals and concerts at some point in time,” Pickering said.
Life In Color has performed inside one of the event spaces at Cal Expo the past two years, but wanted a larger outdoor venue in 2016, Pickering said.
Sacramento Republic FC has served as the anchor tenant for Bonney since last year, consistently drawing sellout crowds for matches in the USL Pro league and international friendlies. The stadium opened as an 8,000-seat venue, but was expanded to 11,442 for the 2015 season.
A Sacramento team in the PRO Rugby league is scheduled to start playing at the field next spring. A U.S. national team rugby match against Japan this summer drew a near-sellout crowd to Bonney Field.
An outdoor amphitheater stood at the Bonney Field site for 15 years, but was shut down in 1998 amid noise complaints from residents of River Park and East Sacramento neighborhoods across the American River from the state fairgrounds. A settlement resulting from a lawsuit filed by the city of Sacramento set noise and concert hour limitations on events at the facility.
The Life In Color event and other potential concerts at Bonney Field will comply with the requirements of that settlement, Pickering said. He said he is not aware of noise complaints associated with sporting events at Bonney Field or at concerts at Cal Expo’s horse track.
“Any event at Cal Expo that generates sound has to comply with the (lawsuit) settlement. It’s written into all the contracts,” Pickering said. “That lawsuit was back in the 1990s when sound production was a lot different than it is today.”
Pickering said Spectra, which is owned by entertainment venue giant Comcast Spectacor, is also interested in hosting high school and college graduations, corporate parties and other events at Bonney Field. Non-sporting events could become a larger part of the Bonney Field programming should Republic FC be awarded a spot in Major League Soccer and move into a new stadium in the downtown railyard.
“We’re definitely looking for new things to do on the field,” Pickering said. “Bonney will still be there (if Republic FC goes to MLS).”