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Surprise craves another swing at music festival

Officials want more fans at Out of the Park event

Posted 5/3/24

The Surprise City Council appears poised to take another swing at a self-produced music festival after staging the first on its own this spring.

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Live Music

Surprise craves another swing at music festival

Officials want more fans at Out of the Park event


The Surprise City Council appears poised to take another swing at a self-produced music festival after staging the first on its own this spring.

But next time the focus will be on getting more music lovers through the gates.

Surprise Sports and Tourism Director Kendra Pettis recently told the city council that the city spent $384,127 after revenue of $83,182 were factored in for the March 23 Out of the Park Music Fest at Mark Coronado Park.

About 6,011 people attended the eight-hour festival at the park in what was the city’s first stab at self-producing a large-scale music festival. The park holds 20,000 people, so attendance was less than a third of capacity, which cut short some of the city’s revenue.

“The numbers are a little disappointing, but we kind of expect the numbers to be disappointing like that,” Councilmember Chris Judd said during the April 16 council meeting.

The city budgeted $500,000 for the event. Councilmember Ken Remley wasn’t happy with the revenue numbers.

“We’re getting a 10% recovery on half a million dollars,” Remley said. “Now, someplace along the way, I think we slipped on the ice because 10% recovery on half a million dollars — that doesn’t even work.”

Pettis told council she believes events like a large-scale music festival take years to build, alluding to the winter Surprise Party, which took two decades to build a following.

“The goal for us in the initial couple years would be to try to get as close to breaking even as possible,” Pettis said.

“It really comes down to attendance.”

The city is already looking at ways to improve the festival, including building in more timing for the next one. That includes booking talent earlier and having more time to market and sell tickets.

The 2024 festival was headlined by Chase Rice, Paul Russell and Huntley, among others.

Pettis noted spring brings several festivals to the Valley, giving the city big competition for talent to book.

The city was able to draw Walk the Moon and Chris Lane among four acts at last year’s Bases and Brews Festival, which was co-produced by Steve Levine Entertainment.

“The timing this year was a little bit tricky not using that third party,” Pettis said.

Potential revenue opportunities include bigger ticket sales, including possibly raising the price from $20 this year. Because of promotions, many city residents paid only $10 to get in and some baseball fans received discounts in conjunction with a spring training ticket they bought for the final game right before the festival.

“It really comes down to ticket sales,” Pettis said. “Twenty dollars for an event for that level of talent is pretty cheap compared to what East Valley cities are doing.”

Judd indicated he believes the tickets may be too inexpensive.

“I think we should be careful that we don’t set the expectation that it’s always going to be cheap,” Judd said.

Remley suggested $50 per ticket a charge for parking since it was the last two years.

Councilmember Aly Cline recommended raising the price in the VIP tent, which gave fans special access to the event and a dedicated bar. The area sold out for the festival.

“I think people would still think it was a reasonable price,” Cline said.

The city believes it can make more money in food, beverage and sponsorship sales.

Pettis said the city sold $9,000 in sponsorships to this year’s festival, but could increase that with more time to sell them and building them into the spring training packages.

“With a new event, a lot of sponsors just don’t know if it’s worth their value,” Pettis said.

Feedback the city received from attendees included more bars and additional restrooms.

Cline suggested a place for coffee and hot cocoa for those who get cold after the sun goes down.

“I think the residents thought it was a worthwhile event,” Cline said. “I thought it was well-planned.”

Jason Stone can be reached at jstone@iniusa.org. We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.