West Sacramento sees The Barn as major draw

West Sacramento hopes to capitalize on the region’s growing food and entertainment scene with a new waterfront venue dubbed The Barn that has already attracted its first major booking.

Developers plan to break ground at the half-acre site at Garden Street and the Riverwalk Promenade in the next 30 days, said West Sacramento leaders. The project scored a huge momentum boost Thursday when producers of the former Launch arts festival announced they will leave Sacramento and head to The Barn in October, even though the space will still be under construction.

With its sweeping wooden canopy design, The Barn outdoor event structure will be an anchor for the Riverwalk’s expansion into West Sacramento’s still-evolving Bridge District neighborhoods surrounding Raley Field. The $5.6 million public-private project on the city’s waterfront is expected to be completed early next year.

Project designers and city leaders foresee a variety of food, music and other events on the half-acre site, as well as a weekend beer garden. The venue includes kitchen and meeting space along with landscaping, parking and restrooms. A yet-to-be-named vendor will operate the site and be responsible for booking events that can accommodate as many as 5,000 people.

“We see the opportunity to have programs – music, a beer garden – so people can get out and walk around the riverfront,” West Sacramento City Councilman Chris Ledesma said. “There’s the notion of music festivals, food tasting, wine tasting, new establishments happening around that area – a river’s-edge venue for restaurants and food. ... It’s important to build these amenities, so they can enjoy the waterfront.”

With the region’s hot summers, function had to play as important a role as form. The Barn’s sweeping shade structure – a dominant design feature – was a “key driver of the building form,” said Stephen Jaycox, design director for Fulcrum Properties, the Sacramento firm developing the site. “The goal was maximum shade. The whole shape and siting of The Barn seems highly improvised, but it creates an environment for people to enjoy the waterfront.

The music, fashion and design festival previously known as Launch has thrived after five years, packing activities into multiple days and attracting popular acts such as Imagine Dragons and Minus the Bear last year. Organizers announced Thursday they renamed the event TBD Fest and moved the Oct. 3-5 festivities from downtown Sacramento to The Barn.

Festival producer Clay Nutting said The Barn’s location and the growing momentum on the city’s waterfront was a strong draw. There were also practical reasons for the move. Nutting’s popular festival had grown over the years, heading from its initial home on Del Paso Boulevard to Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento.

Nutting said last year’s two-day event drew about 13,000 people. He anticipates October’s event should draw similar numbers in a larger space.

“There is a really compelling story about bridging the gap between the two cities. What is happening in West Sacramento really resonated with our story,” Nutting said. “We were looking at the cityscape, standing on the river and there was no other home to tie into what we’re trying to do. I thought the story that was unfolding on the West Sacramento side, on the Sacramento side and being in the middle of these two things – we saw this really synergistic opportunity.”

Although TBD Fest began selling tickets Thursday, Ledesma said his city and TBD organizers are still finalizing the October dates. But “we’re excited to get it going,” he said.

As West Sacramento greets a new riverfront venue and festival, downtown Sacramento is losing an event on the rise. But Sacramento city leaders and business groups downplayed the departure, saying the festival’s move signals a more interconnected region.

“We’re excited to see the event grow, and we’re excited to see the event be successful,” said Lisa Martinez, marketing director at the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. “But there’s still great connectivity to downtown. It’s still very bikeable and very connected to the urban grid.”

Sacramento Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the city’s downtown neighborhoods, said the festival’s growth is good for the region, citing Raley Field’s success in drawing spectators from both sides of the river.

“In another city, we’d use the river as a centerpiece,” Hansen said, adding that the waterway is still perceived by some as a “de facto wall” dividing Sacramento and West Sacramento.

In West Sacramento, city planners envision a place for people to gather along West Sacramento’s Riverwalk Promenade that nods to the nearby Sacramento River and the city’s agricultural history, as well as the region’s present agricultural ties.

The Barn’s planned focus on events spotlighting locally produced food, beer and wine “make this connectedness to what started in this region,” Ledesma said. “It ties back to what we started. We’re a food hub, and now we have a burgeoning food scene. We always talked about that connectedness and what we’re trying to do with the city.”

The project created an interesting opportunity, Jaycox said, to create a place on the water’s edge focused on food with the downtown Sacramento skyline serving as backdrop.

“There are very few places in the Sacramento area where you can be in a city and be aware the river is there,” Jaycox said. “This will be best expressed by crossing the Tower Bridge and walking on the Riverwalk.”