WILDWOOD — Country superstar Kenny Chesney will perform on the city’s beach June 20, a free concert tourism and local officials say “puts Wildwood on the entertainment map.”
Chesney, who has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide, was named the Academy of Country Music’s top new male vocalist in 1997 and has since won numerous awards, most recently winning the Country Music Awards music video of the year in 2011 for “You and Tequila.”
“He is the Jimmy Buffett of country. That’s the kind of fan base he has,” said John Lynch, director of sales for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.
Chesney is currently performing with fellow country star Tim McGraw in the Brothers of the Sun Tour, which includes a June 16 stop in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field. Chesney will then come to Wildwood, and the tour will continue June 23 with a stop in Chesney’s hometown of Nashville, Tenn.
Lynch said Chesney, who partnered with American Express for the Wildwood concert, loves the beach and wanted a beach venue. Seaside Heights was considered, too, but after promoter Dan Parise of Diversified Productions was impressed by the view from the top of the Wildwoods Convention Center, he suggested the company putting on the show, Momentum Worldwide, take a look.
“A senior producer came down and Mayor (Ernie) Troiano and I took them to Schellenger Avenue, and it was foggy, so we tried to explain there’s an ocean there. We went back to the convention center, but when the sun came out, we went back to the site, and they saw this would work,” Lynch said.
“A day later, they said, ‘Let’s start working on a concert on the beach,’” Lynch said.
Lynch said years of building relationships with concert promoters helped bring Chesney to the island, but ultimately the beach sold itself.
“This is a great day for the city of Wildwood,” Lynch said. “Ernie Troiano and his team have worked together with us to make a major beach concert a reality.”
The concert, sponsored by American Express, will be held on the beach south of Mariner’s Landing Pier at Schellenger Avenue.
A section of the city’s ever-growing beach will be cordoned off, and the concert, while a free event, will be open to ticket-holders only; access to the beach will be restricted. Tickets are being distributed through Ticketmaster starting at 11 a.m. Monday. There is no service fee or other charges attached.
“This will be professionally done and a controlled event,” Lynch said, noting that no coolers or backpacks will be permitted.
Food and beverages will be sold on site, including beer and wine, by a vendor brought in by the tour promoter, he said.
He added that the cost of constructing the concert area, including the stage, is being carried by American Express.
“There is no burden to the taxpayer. Wildwood is strictly the venue,” Lynch said.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Chesney’s appearance is “unbelievably important” to the city and its ability to draw top-name entertainment.
“This is going to set the barometer of what Wildwood can offer,” he said, adding that the concert is being put together in a short span of time. “This is a massive undertaking.”
Chesney’s decision to play on the city’s beach makes sense given his popular beach-themed songs, such as 2002’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” from his 2002 CD of the same name. Other songs of his that appeal to beachgoers include “On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful,” also from 2002; “When the Sun Goes Down” from the CD of the same name in 2004; and “Coastal” in 2010.
In 2007, Chesney started adding breezy, steel-drum island songs to his repertoire.
Kenny Young, an Upper Township resident and country music performer, said he hoped Chesney’s appearance in Cape May County could lead to performances there by other major artists.
“It opens doors for everyone,” said Young, who will be performing at The Bull and Bear Tavern in Woodbine on Saturday during one of the local ticket giveaways hosted by WPUR Cat Country 107.3.
Young is a Chesney fan, calling the singer “one of the great country musicians.”
Wildwood police Chief Steven Long said Thursday that the department, which has 30 full-time officers and 20 Class II officers, often handles large events such as the Roar to the Shore motorcycle gathering and is prepared for the large number of concertgoers.
Long advised people to arrive early to find parking and make their way to the beach in time for the show.
Tracey Dufault, executive director of the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday that news of the concert was “very, very big.”
“It’s amazing. I’m almost at a loss for words,” Dufault said. “Having 15,000 to 30,000 people here on a Wednesday evening in June is huge.”
Dufault said she couldn’t estimate what the economic impact would be to the resort, but she expected local hotels and restaurants would benefit.
“The revenue that (the concert) will bring is amazing,” she said. “It’s amazing for our businesses.”
Troiano also couldn’t estimate what the concert would generate in terms of dollars, but he said it would bring crowds and positive publicity to the island. “This is the real deal.”
Dufault also said the concert, featuring such a major entertainer, would lead to future events.
“Kenny Chesney is one of the top country music artists in the world today. This is amazing,” she said.
Of course, being a major entertainment venue is nothing new for Wildwood.
“If they played Vegas, they played Wildwood,” said Anne Vinci, president of the Wildwood Historical Society.
Vinci said the top acts of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Chubby Checker, Liberace, Bill Haley and Johnny Mathis, routinely visited Wildwood.
“People came to Wildwood for the beach, the Boardwalk and the entertainment,” Vinci said.
Staff Writer Vincent Jackson contributed to this report.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian: