Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

City officials, businesses prepare as Swifties descend upon Pittsburgh

Taylor Swift performs in a glittering suit and stilettos.
George Walker IV
Taylor Swift performs during "The Eras Tour" on Friday, May 5 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.

Tens of thousands of Taylor Swift fans will descend on Downtown Pittsburgh this weekend to be enchanted by her highly anticipated stint at Acrisure Stadium.

Swift will perform for two consecutive nights at the 68,400-seat venue as part of her sold-out Eras Tour. On top of that, Pittsburgh Regional Transit CEO Katherine Kelleman said the agency expects as many as 15,000 additional fans to tailgate outside the stadium, as they did during Swift’s stop in Philadelphia last month.

The agency announced during the weekend that it would add additional train cars to its light-rail T lines to get fans to and from the stadium.

Speaking outside the City-County Building on Wednesday, however, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt discouraged those without tickets from flocking to the North Shore.

“We know that those who are not attending still want to be part of the experience, but we're asking [that] if you do not have tickets, do not add to the volume of people on the North Shore,” Schmidt said. “We don't really have areas to listen, or for you to stand around the stadium safely.”

Schmidt also asked that anyone attending the concert — or any of this weekend’s festivities — get ready for it far ahead of time. He urged people to take public transit as much as possible, as well as park far outside the event areas and walk in.

Parking lots for the concert will open to Swift’s fans at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. But Burt Lauten, senior director of communications for the Steelers, said each will be manned by security guards to ensure only those with tickets enter.

“We want to make sure that the people who do have tickets get in easily, enjoy the concert and then get home safely afterward,” Lauten said.

Pittsburgh police, EMS and the Office of Emergency Management will each be fully staffed this weekend to support all event go-ers — including those attending Juneteenth celebrations through Monday downtown and at Point State Park, as well as multiple Pittsburgh Public Schools commencement ceremonies on Friday.

With highs in the 70s both Friday and Saturday, Amera Gilchrist, the city’s EMS chief, said there isn’t likely to be any cruel summer weather to cause problems. Still, the city will have up to 24 EMS personnel on-site at the concert, as well as additional transport units outside to get people to the hospital as needed.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

A major economic driver

Jerad Bachar, CEO of Visit Pittsburgh, said Swift’s concert is projected to be one of the largest shows ever held in Pittsburgh, potentially breaking Garth Brooks’ record for concert attendance.

Before Brooks — whose 2019 concert at then-Heinz Field sold 73,000 tickets — Swift held the bejeweled crown of Pittsburgh for her 56,445-person show in 2018.

By comparison, Elton John’s 40,000-person show at PNC Park concert last year brought $11.5 million to the region, according to an economic assessment by Visit Pittsburgh and the Pirates.

“The economic impact is pretty remarkable,” Bachar said. “So we're really excited to see what Taylor Swift is going to bring for the community. We know it's going to be much bigger.”

Bachar said economic ramifications of the concert will include the large uptick in people staying at the region’s hotels, eating in local restaurants and going to nearby attractions.

Each of the approximately 6,000 hotel rooms in Downtown Pittsburgh is booked up this weekend, according to Bachar, as are many hotels in the surrounding area.

A WESA analysis found rates for the few rooms that remained open this weekend were as much as five times greater than rates the following weekend, including near the airport and as far north as Cranberry.

As of Thursday morning, fans had already lined up around the North Shore to buy merchandise a day ahead of Swift’s very first night.

According to Lauten with the Steelers, Swifties will come to Pittsburgh from across the country and Canada. The singer-songwriter’s latest tour is passing over nearby cities she stopped at during her 2018 Reputation tour, including Columbus and Cleveland.

Pittsburgh is set to host several other megastars between Acrisure and other local venues this summer, including Beyonce and Ed Sheeran, whose tours will also skip those cities.

“You're seeing that Pittsburgh continues to grow in popularity when it comes to these mega events,” Bachar said. “And as we continue to look into the future, a lot of the events that are taking place here, the audiences are getting bigger, they're getting more diverse. They're getting to a point where Pittsburgh is seen as a major events destination. And these types of concerts help drive that reputation.”

An end game analysis of ticket holders won’t occur until after the concert, but Bachar said he’s hopeful those visitors will experience the city and want to return. The momentum for growth is there, he said, as 42% of those who travel to Pittsburgh come back throughout the year.

“If you look at other events like Pride, the growth trajectory that we've seen for Picklesburgh and some of the other local unique events, they continue to grow year over year,” Bachar added.

How businesses are preparing for ‘Swiftsburgh’

Businesses across the region know all too well they can use the influx of Swifties as an opportunity to draw in additional customers.

Kennywood will offer concert attendees $22 off admission for up to four tickets Thursday through Sunday when they show their Eras Tour ticket at the gate.

Millie’s will also start scooping a special batch of Lavender Haze ice cream in its shops Friday, in addition to a similarly-inspired margarita at Las Velas in Market Square.

Brooke Keane of Trace Brewing has been a longtime fan of Taylor Swift. The Bloomfield brewery hosted a friendship bracelet-making event Wednesday evening.

“I think it's a really cute, fun way for fans to meet and get to know each other, and just have Taylor bring people together,” Keane said.

Continuing the fun, the Carnegie Science Center will hide 10 tiny Swift figurines in their Miniature Railroad and Village exhibit for two days, with each figure corresponding with one of the singer’s 10 albums.

The “tiny Taylors” will remain on display through Sunday, Aug. 20, and, in part, promote an ongoing Taylor Swift-themed laser show running at the Buhl Planetarium through Sept. 4.

“She may not fit into the Miniature Railroad’s timeline or aesthetic,” said Rosalie Garfinkle with the Carnegie Science Center, “but Taylor Swift never goes out of style.”

WESA's Shreya Singh contributed to this report.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.