Since BayFest announced Wednesday the festival was canceled indefinitely, more has come to light about its proposed move to West Mobile earlier this year in a partnership with The Grounds that was never realized.
Scott Tindle, executive director of The Grounds, confirmed yesterday they were approached by BayFest organizers about moving the festival from its 20-year home downtown to the intersection of Cody Road and Zeigler Boulevard, but negotiations eventually broke down and The Grounds pulled out of the proposal.
Tindle said they were contacted by BayFest organizers who asked to see the campus of The Grounds and explore the logistics of a possible move.
“I thought they were planning another event,” Tindle said, but “they asked if dates were available for BayFest.”
At a press conference in April, BayFest President and CEO Bobby Bostwick told reporters it was the other way around; The Grounds approached BayFest about the move.But according to Tindle, among many concerns was the proximity of BayFest to The Grounds’ biggest event of the year, the Greater Gulf State Fair, which begins Oct. 30. Eventually, Tindle said, he told BayFest organizers they “could make it work.” The next week, he said, the BayFest board voted to approve the move, without a finalized contract, or any further discussion between the entities.
“I was surprised they were ready to make an announcement before anything like that was discussed,” Tindle said.
He said he emailed the lease terms to Bostwick and Executive Director Shana Jordan before the BayFest board vote, so “they had an idea before they voted.”
“They came out and tried to negotiate terms,” Tindle said. “We said, ‘this is what we can do.’”
According to a quoted price sheet, The Grounds offered to host the festival for a total of $132,000 for the week. The quote includes $170,000 for the rental, $50,000 for an October impact fee and a 40 percent discount because BayFest is a nonprofit organization. The $88,000 discount brought the total rent down to $132,000.
Tindle said the impact fee was added to the lease because the festival would take place the same month as the fair and the three-day music festival was likely to cause some damage to the same earthen area used as the fair’s midway. He said BayFest organizers thought the fee was unreasonable.
“We charged the fee based on what it would take to get the campus ready for the fair,” he said.
Tindle said they were concerned about damage to the turf, as well as power and water infrastructure.
At the April press conference explaining why BayFest ultimately rejected the arrangement, Bostwick told reporters The Grounds was going to charge between $100,000 and $200,000, while the event could lease space downtown for $40,000.
The first issue with the contract terms arose when BayFest organizers asked for comped rental rates, Tindle said. The Grounds didn’t have the capacity to do that, he said.
“We host other concerts,” Tindle said. “We didn’t want to comp one and not others.”
Meanwhile, even though BayFest had insurance, Tindle said officials with The Grounds didn’t believe it would cover the costs of damages quickly enough to prepare for the fair.
When BayFest officials balked at the extra fee, officials at The Grounds proposed a profit-sharing agreement, which both sides initially accepted, Tindle said.
“That would make us not just a rental, but a partner,” he said.
However, when The Grounds asked BayFest officials to share accounting details to study the profit-sharing potential, Tindle said Bostwick refused. Tindle said BayFest also admitted it was expecting to lose “a couple hundred thousand dollars” this year.
“We backed out at that point,” Tindle said. “We didn’t want to get tagged as the place where you’re not going to be successful. We weren’t willing to damage our brand with an event planning to lose money. We weren’t willing to let them come here and die.”
Bostwick told reporters in April BayFest ultimately pulled out of the deal because The Grounds wanted too much money. Calls to Bostwick asking for comment on Tindle’s allegations have not been returned.
But BayFest board member Scott Waters said the idea to move to West Mobile was largely based on the shrinking festival footprint downtown and finances. He said the disagreement over money and the backlash from fans over the move were among the reasons negotiations broke down.
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