LaGrange music festival: Council approves tourism budget amendment for event

Published 7:32 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A major music festival will take place in LaGrange later this year, according to information released at the LaGrange City Council work session on Tuesday.

During the work session, Sweetland Amphitheatre Director Keyal Loveland, LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce President Page Estes and Wild Leap Brew Co. co-founders Rob Goldstein and Anthony Rodriguez discussed a proposed music festival and its projected impact on the area both in terms of economic impact and as a tourist attraction.

“Creating a music festival in downtown LaGrange is something we believe will significantly boost tourism for a weekend,” Goldstein said.  “As Sweetland, Wild Leap, Beacon and Great Wolf Lodge and all these other places have continued to open up and bring folks from around the southeast, this is another opportunity to do that.”

The group estimated that the music festival would attract about 5,000 visitors based on the number of tickets they plan to make available and research on music festivals in other cities.

“Music festivals are a big business in that you have major cities throughout the United States and beyond doing them — Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and so on — but you also have smaller towns doing them [where] they have identified this… as a really great way to boost tourism,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein also said the festival would be an opportunity to bring in additional funding from the hotel/motel tax since it would likely attract out of town guests to stay the night. Additionally, those same visitors would likely shop and eat in LaGrange during their visit, which would contribute to SPLOST funds. The music festival was proposed as a large Downtown LaGrange Development Authority owned and operated event.

The music festival will use some of LaGrange’s tourism dollars, thanks to a budget amendment passed unanimously by the city council on Tuesday night, but the tourism budget will remain the same according to a profit and loss budget performance sheet provided by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. Tourism funding comes from hotel/motel tax funds and must be used for items that will encourage more visitors.

“It is proposed to happen in fall of this year, which is by all projection a huge draw for tourists coming from around the region, probably multiple states coming into the community,” Estes said.

“The advisory council felt that the business plan that had been worked out … proved very worthy of providing some type of seed funds for that event in hopes that it will continue to grow.”

Estes said that the funding was similar to what was provided to get Sweetland Amphitheatre started, and the festival would be expected to grow over time. Red Mountain Entertainment, which was recently purchased by Live Nation, will be the concert promotor, according to information released in the meeting. Loveland said that she had worked closely with Red Mountain to confirm logistics related to the festival like parking, walkability and stage locations.

Estes presented the city council with an updated tourism budget outlining $55,000 for the music festival along with other changes. The tourism budget will maintain the same $990,750 in total expenses, with the money for the updated projects coming from special project funds originally earmarked for a trolley and advertising. While the budget request came from the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Jim Thornton clarified that the chamber was simply conduit for the request.

Council Member Mark Mitchell asked if the budgetary changes and how the money is spent would be reported to the council through the chamber. Estes said that it would.

Gaskin asked that local vendors be used at events and venues receiving funding from the city as often as possible.

The city council unanimously approved the budget amendment on Tuesday night.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Jan. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.