Big music festivals may be coming to downtown St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- A pair of music festivals comparable to Chicago’s Lollapalooza or Austin, Texas’ South By Southwest may be headed to St. Louis.  A contract is just days before going in front of an Aldermanic committee that would give ICM Partners exclusive rights to the area around Soldier’s Memorial on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, potentially for the next 20 years.

“What they have in mind is of that magnitude,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford said, Tuesday.  “That many people participating.  That level of musical talent coming to St. Louis with a three day country event on Memorial Day and a rock/pop event on Labor Day.”

Rainford says each festival would gross in the neighborhood of $8 million.  By comparison, that’s four times what all of the city’s Mardi Gras events pull in.

Lollapalooza 2013 drew 300,000 people to Chicago’s Grant Park over a period of three days.  Nearly 150 bands performed on eight stages during the event.

Drawing the ICM festivals here would require a “non-compete” clause, forbidding the city to give permits to other such events during the Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends.  Rainford says the clause, which raised concerns in a number of circles, is almost meaningless because it only applies to events similar to the ICM shows.

“All we’re blocking out is other events of this magnitude,” Rainford said.  “Really what you’re talking about is like Lollapalooza.  We’ve never had a Lollapalooza event in St. Louis other than ICM, we have no prospects of ever having a Lollapalooza event in St. Louis.”

But some still are not so sure.

“Twenty years is a long time,” St. Louis Blues Society President, John May said.  “Moving in on that territory and blocking out any creative other events for 20 years makes no sense to me.”

He also expressed concern about the timing of a pair of events, Taste of St. Louis and Blues Week, moving out of downtown as the concert series’ move in.  May wonders aloud if this is the case of a less profitable undertaking being shoved aside for one that would put more money in city coffers.

“I honestly feel that the pressure was there,” May said.  “And I don’t think the deal has been dong, but if you sense that you’re not loved anymore, you will go find love.”

Rainford calls such an assertion “made up” and “ridiculous.”

“I think he made a business decision to move to Chesterfield,” Rainford said, referring to Taste of St. Louis and Blues Week promoter Mike Kociela.  “His two events are for profit events.

“Everybody is welcome in the city of St. Louis,” he went on.  “We have never ever even implied to anybody that they’re not welcome in the city.”

There could be a lot of money in the ICM events for the city.  In the contract, ICM promises to pay as much as $450 thousand per event to cover expenses like traffic control and police protection.  In addition to that, the city will receive at least $50 thousand from promoters for allowing them exclusive access to the dates.  That number could skyrocket as the event grows.  If more than 80 thousand tickets are dispersed, for example, the city would get 10.5% of ticket revenue.  For perspective, Lollapalooza single day tickets went for $95 each and 300,000 attended.  Under the formula laid out in the contract, that could send city revenues past $2 million for a single weekend.

The proposal that would approve the deal with ICM goes before a Board of Aldermen committee Thursday.

If everything is passed, the first of the concert events could take place this coming Labor Day weekend.  If that time frame can’t be met, Memorial Day 2015 would see the first of the music festivals.

The “Taste of St. Louis” is moving to Chesterfield