No Rolling Stones, but Tampa books an even bigger prize: Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks played six shows at the Veteran's Memorial Arena in Jacksonville last October. He's booked two shows at Tampa's Amalie Arena but could easily add more. (St. Augustine Record)
Garth Brooks played six shows at the Veteran's Memorial Arena in Jacksonville last October. He's booked two shows at Tampa's Amalie Arena but could easily add more. (St. Augustine Record)
Published March 31 2015

In the end, the dice didn't tumble Tampa's way for a concert by the Rolling Stones. But how's this for a make-up prize: two shows by Garth Brooks instead.

The country music icon on Tuesday announced back-to-back concerts at Amalie Arena on June 5 and 6, part of Brooks' ongoing comeback tour that began last September and has been setting records across America ever since.

"It's going to be an event," said Elmer Straub, the arena's vice president of event booking, who's been working for more than a year to snag Brooks. "This is the first time he's played here in over 16 years, and it's the only show in Florida. There's no Orlando play; there's no South Florida play. So we should be drawing from the whole state, which is pretty incredible."

When all is said and done, the concerts by Brooks may be an even bigger deal than one by the Stones.

While only two shows are currently on the books, Brooks frequently adds dates in cities whenever his initial concerts sell out. That was the case in 1998, the last time he came to Tampa, when he ended up playing four sold-out shows at the then-named Ice Palace. In October, he announced three dates at Jacksonville's Veterans Memorial Arena, but quickly added three more when demand for seats skyrocketed. In November, he played 11 shows at Minneapolis's Target Center, selling more than 205,000 tickets in all.

If both Tampa show sell out, that would mean around 40,000 fans total. Beyond that, might he add even more? "We've only committed to two shows," Straub said. "He plays on demand, obviously, but we've committed to two shows, and we're happy to have those shows."

Dave McKay, co-host of the Dave & Veronica Morning Show on WQYK-99.5, said that as soon as the show was announced on-air, the station's Facebook page lit up with hundreds of likes and shares.

"No artist that I know of gets that much reaction on social media," said McKay, who will be giving away Brooks tickets each morning next week. "Everyone's sharing it with their friends, saying they're going. There's probably three generations of people that Garth will appeal to, easily."

The Brooks announcement also numbs the sting — expected though it was — of the Rolling Stones picking Orlando, not Tampa, for their only Florida concert of 2015. The presence of teaser billboards up and down Interstate 275 in Tampa and St. Petersburg led to hopes that Raymond James Stadium might be in the running for Tampa's first Stones show since 2005. But in the end, the Stones' 15-city North American tour will hit the Citrus Bowl on June 12 — their first Orlando concert since 1997, and third in history.

But it wasn't all bad news for RayJay and the Tampa Sports Authority. A few hours after the Stones made their Orlando date official, the lineup was unveiled for the fourth annual Sunset Music Festival, a May 23 and 24 electronic music fest that last year drew nearly 50,000 people to Raymond James Stadium. This year's headliners include Grammy-winning DJ Skrillex and Dutch DJs Tiesto and Armin van Buuren, who have been crowned the world's No. 1 DJ a combined eight times by DJ Magazine.

But as big the Stones and Sunset will be, if Brooks adds a couple more concerts in Tampa, he could be looking at a combined audience of up to 80,000. A number like that would likely dwarf the attendance at any other concert event in Central Florida.

"We wanted to show not just that we wanted the show because that's the easy part," Straub said of booking Brooks, "but we wanted to show what a great market Tampa was."