By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
With the two-day country music festival kicking off this weekend, Rock the South organizers and Cullman city park officials have ironed out a five-year deal that will have the city provide $150,000 this year and the next two years to ensure the event will remain in Cullman until at least 2018 and likely beyond.
The contract was signed and finalized June 13, after approximately a month of negotiations. All copyrights and proceeds from the event are the property of Rock The South, LLC.
Under the agreement, city parks will manage three concession stands at event site Heritage Park, while also managing and keeping all proceeds for parking. The department will charge $10 per car at park facilities this year.
Though this weekend’s festival will be hosted at Heritage Park, the contract does not define a specific venue for subsequent years —meaning the event could potentially move to another local facility in the future if both parties agree. City officials are working to develop some new park properties off County Road 222 at the recently purchased Burrow property, which could potentially be an option in the future.
City officials say the three-year, $150,000 contract requirement is an effort to launch the event to sustainability. After that, council members say they should be able to reap the benefits of extra tourism and sales tax revenue the final two years and in potential future years.
The city, via the parks department, will provide the event venue, cleaning services, security (i.e. police) and parking for five years under the deal. An exact estimate for the cost of those in-kind services will not be available until factors such as overtime are considered after the event, but city clerk Wes Moore said the final number will likely be a “considerable amount.”
City council president Garlan Gudger, Jr. said the city lent support to the festival to ensure it has the resources to grow and have a huge, positive impact on the local economy for years to come.
“I think the elected officials were diligent in their thought process of how to structure this contract, working with the parks board, and we realized that if this event didn’t locate in Cullman it would probably happen somewhere else,” he said. “It was evident after seeing the economic impact of anywhere from $3-5 million the first year, that it would be worth the money we’ve placed up front as seed money. So, not only can we promote the Cullman area and start being a name for the music industry, but also help retailers and small businesses bring in revenue and create jobs. It all ties in together.”
As a small business owner himself, Gudger said he believes the risk vs. reward for helping launch the festival presented a chance the city couldn’t afford to miss out on.
“It’s no different than looking at a return on investment, because that’s the most important thing for taxpayers of the Cullman area,” he said. “With this event we should have return on our investment the first year, much less in a five-year span.”
Concert organizer Shane Quick said he believes the event can hit the goal of being self-sustaining within three years, noting the festival should grow into a major benefit for the area.
“The goal is to get off the ground and be self-sustaining, absolutely,” he said. “We don’t want this to be a burden on the city, so as quickly as we can get off the ground and be self-sustaining, the better.”
Though the event is a massive undertaking, Quick said it has been a relatively smooth process working with the city in recent months in the lead-up to the festival.
“We have such a well-organized city team, we’ve met with the city and about every department every other week for about three-to-four months now,” he said. “It came through a lot of hard work and planning, but it’s paying off. We all feel like we’re organized and ready for the big crowd of people we’re expecting.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.