Concert promoter Danny Hayes sees Discovery Park as an ideal venue for his Aftershock heavy metal rock festival. Nearly 38,000 fans attended the two-day event on the American River earlier this month, prompting Hayes to talk about adding a third day and raising the daily attendance cap.
“We’re definitely coming back,” said Hayes, CEO of Los Angeles-based Danny Wimmer Presents. “The numbers prove there is a market there.”
Bill Davis doesn’t share his enthusiasm. The Sacramento resident argues that large, for-profit events such as Aftershock are inappropriate for the American River Parkway, a 29-mile ribbon of open space that starts in Discovery Park and stretches east to Folsom.
Davis is a board member of Save the American River Association, which last year sued the county to stop it from approving foot races, food truck festivals, concerts and other activities that the group contends are harming the ecologically sensitive riparian forest. Formed in 1961, SARA helped establish the American River Parkway, a recreational centerpiece of the Sacramento region. “Our concern is the impact on the park’s resources and wildlife,” Davis said.
Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen also has concerns. Hansen lives in Alkali Flat, a mile from Discovery Park, and heard the festival’s heavy metal music loudly and clearly on both nights.
“It’s a difficult balancing act, between large events and use of the parkway,” Hansen said. “Not every venue is appropriate for every event.”
Sacramento County is responsible for maintaining and managing the parkway, which is both a wildlife corridor and a place where about 5 million people come to play every year. County officials say the parkway is a public resource and its use should be available to any event that complies with the guidelines in a county parkway plan.
In 2014, the county expects to issue permits for 71 events on the parkway, including a Girl Scout camp, 5K runs and concerts. That’s an increase from 2012 and 2013, when there were 66 events permitted each year.
Aftershock is the latest flashpoint. Attendance has risen sharply since the festival drew 12,800 its first year in the city in 2012. In 2013, 30,000 people attended the two-day event. The growing popularity has prompted Danny Wimmer Presents to talk about expansion.
Jeff Leatherman, the county parks director, said he thinks Aftershock is an appropriate event for Discovery Park. He said the county has scheduled such events in spring or fall to avoid conflicts with the busy summer recreation season. The American River Parkway Plan – last updated in 2008 after extensive community input – allows large events in Discovery Park “as long as natural resources are not degraded.”
“We have this public amenity that should be used, but used responsibly,” Leatherman said.
SARA contends in its lawsuit that the county is allowing more events at Discovery Park and elsewhere in the parkway to bolster its budget. Leatherman said that’s not the case, and that the county is simply seeking to increase public access.
Leatherman also said he thinks Aftershock had minimal effect on other parkway users or the surrounding community. “From a county perspective, we think this event went well,” he said.
Davis, with SARA, offered a sharply different perspective. He maintains the parkway plan did not contemplate events of the magnitude of Aftershock. The group has asked the court to impose an injunction halting such special events until the county adopts a Resource Impact Monitoring Plan, called for in the parkway plan, that would assess the natural resources in the parkway and how they are affected by events. Work on such a plan stopped in 2010, the victim of budget cuts.
As the court fight continues, concert promoter Hayes is making big plans for Aftershock. He sees it as the West Coast version of Rock on the Range, a three-day heavy metal festival in Columbus, Ohio, that draws 40,000 patrons each day.
Sensing robust demand for tickets this year, Hayes asked the Sacramento Fire Department to allow him to sell up to 19,000 tickets each day, up from a 15,000 maximum each day in 2013. Sunday’s concert this year was a sellout. More than 18,000 people attended on Saturday, Hayes said.
The Aftershock festival has proved to be a potent economic contributor to the city, said Mike Testa of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In 2013, Hayes said, his firm spent roughly $800,000 to put on the two-day festival, which grossed $1.6 million in ticket sales. Testa said last year’s Aftershock generated more than 2,100 hotel bookings.
The county received about $55,000 in parking and ticket fees this year from Aftershock. The promoter also paid the county $17,588 for rangers and maintenance.
Hayes is hoping to extend Aftershock into a third day next year, depending on whether he can secure enough talent. He intends to ask the Fire Department to raise the daily capacity to 25,000.
Leatherman said county officials have not discussed the option of letting Aftershock go to a three-day festival. “We want to evaluate what the impacts will be of a third day,” he said.
Save the American River Association opposes any expansion of Aftershock. Davis criticized the concert promoter for failing to clean up Discovery Park in a timely manner after this year’s event. In a walk through the concert site four days after the festival, Hayes documented pallets left behind, as well as bags of trash, styrofoam peanuts strewn about and a ruined barbecue grill.
In 2013, SARA produced a detailed report called “The Aftermath” that showed pictures of pruned trees, grass gouged by tires and trash left by Aftershock patrons.
Hayes said he is committed to leaving the park in a pristine condition and that any delay was probably the fault of the local trash company he hired for cleanup. The pallets, trash and other items have since been removed.
Hayes said he understands the association’s concerns and that he’s willing to talk with the group about park usage. He said he is interested in doing a walk-through with Davis after next year’s festival to make sure everything is cleaned to the group’s satisfaction.
Told of the offer, Davis said the need for such a walk-through shows Aftershock may not be appropriate for Discovery Park.