Rain call: Why the Rodney Atkins concert wasn’t moved or rescheduled

Nick Blank

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Rodney Atkins only got one song in before the show was canceled due to the weather. Photo by Lili Weinstein

Over a thousand students turned up for the “Welcome to the Nest” festival last week eager to watch Rodney Atkins perform, until hazardous weather conditions stepped in.

“Everything had indicated light rains during the day, which went exactly as predicted, and a 20 percent chance starting at 8 p.m and dropping during crucial concert times,” Osprey Productions (OP) director Junine Castin said.

That didn’t happen, as concert-goers know. In the midst of a downpour, a member of Rodney Atkins’ crew pulled the country music singer off the stage after one song due to concerns over lightning. Atkins’ services — which cost $35,000 from the Activity & Services fee and Student Life and Services fee — wouldn’t be rescheduled for students or refunded to the university.

As for rescheduling Rodney Atkins, Castin said there was too many variables to factor including meetings with general counsel, new contracts with the agent, a new set of contract riders and a new schedule with Atkins’ buses. Castin said a rescheduled concert would make Atkins divert from his tour. Atkins played in Gering, Nebraska Sept. 2.

“All the preparing in the world didn’t prepare us for that one bolt of lighting,” Castin added.

Castin said if OP had any indication that the weather conditions would have worsened that day, closer to the “rain call,” they might have had more options. But Rodney Atkins was already onstage when lightning struck and the crew had to make the call at the location they were at.

Senior members of OP, the SG Director, Assistant SG Director, Student Government President and Vice President monitored weather apps, and kept in contact with two meteorologists. They made the decision to go ahead with the concert at 12 p.m Friday, which Castin referred to as a “rain call.”

There was a backup option: the Fieldhouse, which has a similar capacity to Coxwell Amphitheater. But once the call is made to begin the concert, Castin said, you can’t switch venues.

“The time it would take to create, build and move a stage, to get students to go to the Fieldhouse, and make the concert as entertaining and safe as possible, the time turnaround was too last-minute,” Castin said.

In the past, OP has had to move two concerts indoors. In 2015, Sublime with Rome’s equipment was left out overnight and rained on. This spring, Steve Aoki’s concert was moved to the UNF Arena.

Chris Blank, a construction management major, was noticeably frustrated with the outcome of the event. He referred to the scheduling events outdoors during hurricane season as confusing, “when we have two perfectly good indoor venues.”

Castin said OP didn’t have enough time to set up the Student Union Auditorium or UNF Arena and keep guests out of danger of the lightning. Arena staff were not available that week and there weren’t enough Student Union staff on site to adequately prepare the ballrooms. She said it took about five hours of turnaround time when Sublime With Rome was moved in 2015.

Students waited in the rain, eager to see Rodney Atkins hit the stage. Photo by Lili Weinstein
Students waited in the rain, eager to see Rodney Atkins hit the stage. Photo by Lili Weinstein

When asked about the concert’s cancellation, junior communications major Hannah Carver said she had seen Rodney Atkins before and she was ready for the experience again.

What Carver did find upsetting was the management of the event.

“We were told the show would go on, the show would go on, but we just stood there soaking wet.”

OP decided not to offer refunds because they usually conduct the refund process if there’s an internal reason for cancellation.

Castin said she wouldn’t change the process based on the results of canceled concerts because OP has hosted concerts with a higher percent chance of rain in the past.

“When you make that rain call, that’s kind of a risk you take and unfortunately the rain call didn’t go through to fruition,” she said.

Castin said she worked on the concert from the middle to the end of June until the moment it got canceled. When asked how many hours OP invested in the show (the first of three this semester), Castin just said “too many to count.”

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