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All that jazz hard on turf

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Some $10,000 worth of damage to Rio Grande Park was by far the most serious impact of hosting Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Festival in Aspen, according to a report to the Aspen City Council.

In general, the event was a positive one for JAS patrons and the community, according to an assessment of the festival’s effects on the city. The impacts of holding the event in downtown Aspen were minimal, except for damage to the turf, according to Randy Ready, assistant city manager. He prepared the report at the council’s request.

The economic benefit of hosting the event in Aspen was not addressed in the report, as the city cannot track sales tax revenues by day.

The damage to the park was estimated at $10,000 by the Parks Department. The $2,500 bond provided by Jazz Aspen for potential damage, plus 75 percent of the $2,000 park permit fee paid by JAS, will leave $6,000 in repair costs for the city to swallow, according to Ready.

In addition, the compaction caused by this year’s festival will require additional aeration of the turf and more intense fertilization for the next two or three years, quadrupling the cost of fertilizing the grass from about $1,000 per year to $4,000 per year.

“The biggest issue the council will have to consider in future years, if Jazz Aspen wants to return, is the impact on the park,” Ready said. “That is the issue.”

The park went unwatered for three weeks, including two weeks while the festival tent was erected, contributing to the damage. Festival attendees trampled the grass in high-traffic areas, and heavy vehicles drove across the park during the setup and dismantling of the venue.

Several semitrailers, a 200-ton crane, an office trailer, generators, forklifts and pickup trucks driving over the grass all took their toll, according to Ready.

About 30 percent of the park’s turf was lost; full recovery would require about two months, but two August events have already booked the park and alternative sites aren’t readily available.

Other athletic uses of the park have been relocated to other fields, adding to the already heavy use of those facilities, according to Ready’s report.

In the future, the city could consider rebuilding the Rio Grande turf to a higher standard – possibly hybrid or artificial turf – and require flooring for the footprint of the tent and high-traffic areas. Recovery time could be reduced to four to six weeks, instead of eight to 12 weeks, according to the report.

Parking during the festival did not generate problems on Aspen’s streets, even though much of the Rio Grande Parking Garage was reserved for the festival’s VIP pass holders. In addition, the city received no complaints about noise, though the Given Institute indicated some of the sound checks at the tent during the day were disruptive to its conferences, Ready noted.

Bus ridership in town and in the valley was actually down for the weekend, which may reflect the festival’s pedestrian-friendly locale this year, he added. It’s possible many festival attendees simply walked to the concerts, which attracted about 9,300 people over four days.

Calls for police service at the festival were minimal, though several officers were assigned to the event each day. Three shifts during the four-day festival were 10-hour overtime details.

The most significant call to the festival grounds for police apparently occurred at 1:30 a.m. on the Monday after the event concluded, when officers received a report of three individuals trying to break into a trailer containing unsold alcoholic beverages. The suspects scattered, eluding officers.

Ready’s memo offers several suggestions for future years, including better crowd control after concerts, a better system to identify attendees who are old enough to buy alcohol at the festival, and screening the festival’s security staff to make sure people who’ve been prosecuted for crimes aren’t handling security.

Jazz Aspen, which brought the June Festival to Aspen because its usual Snowmass Village venue was under construction, has made no decision about next year’s locale for the event. Jim Horowitz, JAS executive producer, said negotiations for next year’s venue will wait until after this year’s Labor Day Fest in Snowmass.

Some Aspenites have urged the city to work to bring the June Festival back, though Snowmass officials have expressed a desire to see it back on their turf next year.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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