Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have performed at virtually all of the world's biggest venues, and on Wednesday, Aug. 29, they will add a new site to the mix: Vernon Downs Raceway in Vernon, N.Y.
This year's Wrecking Ball tour includes stops at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., adjacent to the Meadowlands Racetrack. There are also several dates scheduled for some of the biggest venues in Europe.
So how did Vernon Downs land the appearance by "The Boss?”
"Everybody's been asking, ‘How did we get Springsteen?' My ex-son-in-law is a concert promoter so for the last two years we've been trying to get one of the big concerts by using the infield,” explained Vernon Downs owner Jeff Gural, who is, ironically, also known as "The Boss” around the racetrack.
"A couple months ago we were contacted by a local promoter and he thought there was a chance to get Springsteen,” continued Gural. "We said we'd love to do it. When he asked what kind of deal we'd make, I said any deal. It would really put us on the map to get that kind of concert. And if it was successful, we could get one or two concerts every year.
"The idea had died but then my son reminded me that I had a tenant in one of my buildings, World Hunger Year, and he said the guy who runs it is friends with Springsteen. I called him and he said Bruce had been very supportive of the charity. I asked if he could reach out to him and tell him that A, we were good guys, and B, we'd give a chunk of any profits we'd make to charity.
"He said he'd put in a good word. He called me back in just a few minutes and said they were in the process in deciding what venues to go to. He said they were very appreciative of me being a good guy and giving the proceeds to charity. Two or three days later they called and said it was a go.”
Gural said he also ensured that city officials were supportive of the concert, which will likely bring a capacity crowd of 30,000 to the track.
"I spoke to the town, because a lot of times they don't want these concerts, but they loved the idea of the economic benefits of having all these people coming to their town, even if for just a few hours,” he said. "We're surrounded by a lot of colleges and they start the last week in August. It's good for the local community that has really been struggling.
"We will also have to rent fields nearby for parking, and have shuttle buses,” he added.
Gural also received support from the horsemen, who agreed to move the card scheduled for Wednesday back one day to Thursday.
"The date they picked was the perfect date because we didn't have to change any of our stakes races,” Gural said.
Gural noted that Pat Benatar performed last year at Vernon where all the proceeds (about $75,000, including $5 per ticket donated by Gural) went to the local food back, and big concert acts such as Phish, Dave Matthews Band and Grateful Dead have played at the track in years past. He said he hopes the anticipated success of the Springsteen appearance will lead to more concerts in the future.
"There was a tradition that I wanted to revive, but this is the first time anyone said yes,” he concluded. "Hopefully, it works out and we will be doing it in the future. All I need right now is for the weatherman to cooperate.”Tickets for Springsteen's Vernon concert go on sale Saturday, April 28, via Ticketmaster.