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Taylor Swift Halloween concert at Raymond James Stadium having no trouble making profit

Noah told the Tampa Sports Authority that rain is unlikely to fall on Taylor Swift and fans during her Halloween concert at Raymond James Stadium.

The Noah in question is National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Noah. He made a presentation to the TSA this summer indicating rain had darkened Halloween in Tampa just 25 times in the past 125 years.

Mother Nature may be the last potential threat standing between the TSA and a big payday come Oct. 31.

The public agency that manages Raymond James Stadium surpassed its break-even point on ticket sales in June for the Swift concert, TSA online records show, in what is the latest and perhaps biggest test yet of the authority's strategy to compete against private concert promoters.

And with the heaviest ticket sales usually coming in the two months before an event, the TSA expects to make a healthy profit. Records suggest Swift's show could sell out, which would mean a tidy $350,000 profit for the authority, and thus taxpayers.

The concert may provide further proof that the authority's strategy, launched in 2011, to promote its own concerts rather than simply renting out Raymond James can be a reliable source of income. Three previous concerts, all involving county star Kenny Chesney, produced a combined profit of $2.5 million.

By promoting its own shows, the TSA cuts out the middleman, pays artist guarantees out of its own pocket and collects more profit when tickets sell, or loses more cash if they don't.

It was an especially risky bet to land an act of the stature of Swift. That is because the authority had to offer Swift a $2.75 million guarantee to win a date on her "1989 World Tour."

"We've been more than honest with everybody," TSA executive director Eric Hart said in March. "It's a risky game. But there is a reward to it if a show is successful."

Hart told his board of directors on July 27 that all but 9,000 tickets had been sold, which more than assured the authority could pay Swift's guarantee and meet its own $1.4 million in expenses. With a sellout being about 53,000, that would indicate about 44,000 tickets had been sold by the time of that July meeting.

If the show sells out, Swift would earn $928,000 on top of the $2.75 million guarantee. (Swift must pay for two opening acts and cover her own expenses.)

With a sellout, the total profit for the TSA would be $700,000, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get half of that — $350,000 — under terms of their operating agreement with the authority.

If Swift canceled the concert because of illness, she doesn't get her guarantee. But the authority would still lose some money if she could not reschedule, though the down side for the agency would probably be far less significant than bad weather.

While the show goes on rain or shine — only a tropical storm or hurricane would cause a weather cancellation, though the TSA could reschedule — rain could dampen last-minute ticket purchases and revenue from things such as concession sales.

Records indicate the authority is considering buying a weather policy with a $48,500 premium. But a decision to do so has not yet been made.

How many tickets remain unsold just two weeks before Swift's show is unclear. Agency officials said they would not comment about the show and declined to say how many tickets remain unsold. A spokesman hung up on a reporter phoning the authority after saying he had another call.

The Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday filed a public records request with the agency, which it amended Thursday. Records were not available by press time.

Board chairman Andy Scag­lioni did not return a call for comment.

That reluctance to talk might have something to do with the fiercely competitive nature of the concert business, where venues bid on big acts that can play that competition to their financial advantage.

Hart vehemently protested to the Times in March when the newspaper indicated it would publish detailed financial information about the Swift concert, including her $2.75 million guarantee. That story was eventually published March 29.

He said the release of such information put the authority at a disadvantage when competing against other venues.

Though Hart agreed other venues could file public records requests to get the same financial information obtained by the Times, he said at the time, "They don't think to do records requests. If it goes in the newspaper, they don't have to do any work to get it."

It is unclear if weather insurance is similarly competitive since Hart won't talk about that, either.

Noah, the aptly named meteorologist, said he told the authority in July that October is Tampa's driest month, with history showing only a small chance of serious tropical weather. In his presentation, Noah said only two hurricanes and three tropical storms had hit within 75 miles of Tampa the last week of October in the past 163 years.

But as Noah made clear, Mother Nature offers no guarantees.

"I only provided the information," Noah said in an interview. "They have the hard job of weighing the risk" and determining if it is worth weather insurance. But he noted that for himself, "I am a conservative investor. I have good insurance."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.

Taylor Swift Halloween concert at Raymond James Stadium having no trouble making profit 10/16/15 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2015 7:10pm]
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