The president and CEO of BayFest, Inc. confirmed Thursday that organizers are close to finalizing an agreement to move the musical festival to The Grounds, starting this year.
“It’s not a done deal,” Bobby Bostwick said. “It’s about 90 percent.”
Bostwick said he was given the green light to pursue a deal with The Grounds to move the festival during a meeting of the BayFest board Wednesday evening.
“I think some board members aren’t happy about it, but a majority approved it,” Bostwick said.
BayFest 2014 marked the festival’s 20th year downtown. A shrinking footprint for the festival downtown was one reason Bostwick provided for the move. He said a proposed hotel bordering Bienville Square would force one major stage to relocate, for example.
Bostwick said moving from downtown could possibly afford the festival other benefits, like having more time to set up and break down concert and event spaces. In the past, festival organizers had to have everything out of the way downtown by 6:30 a.m. the Monday following the event, he said.
“We also couldn’t start setting up early … ,” he said. “I’d love to have a week to set up.”
He said the early takedown of stages and equipment has been a “nightmare” for the festival.
Bostwick said the decision to move was made to sustain the longevity of the festival, but it wasn’t an easy decision to make and one he said he’s fought for years.
Bostwick said he has met with Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration and some members of the City Council about the move, but still needs to meet with members of the county government.
A statement from Stimpson’s office said, “BayFest met with Mayor Stimpson this week to brief him on a proposal to move the event to The Grounds. It’s our understanding that negotiations are ongoing and a final agreement has yet to be signed, so it would be premature to speculate on terms of the agreement. That said, we are fully supportive of BayFest and have full confidence in its leadership to do what’s best for the event.”
After the news broke today, Scott Tindle, executive director of The Grounds said, “The Grounds is committed to community development, and any time we have the opportunity to enhance fellow non-profits’ ability to be successful we are happy to do so.”
The Grounds Board President Michael Milford, “While the Greater Gulf State Fair will always be the central focus of our efforts, we are happy that Bayfest has chosen to bring Alabama’s largest music festival to our campus as it is a wonderful compliment to our already busy calendar of events.”
The city recently annexed The Grounds into the city limits, where the city will benefit from all non-fair related sales tax revenue generated. The recent annexation did not play a role in the proposed move for the BayFest board, Bostwick said, but probably provided a level of comfort for the city administration.
Bostwick said he hopes a deal is finalized by early next week. He said once it is final, BayFest would release more information on the move.
Updated to include statements from Mayor Stimpson and The Grounds.