Axis Nation, LLC, conducting business as Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, and Coffee County have signed an agreement regarding the 2018 festival, Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell has announced.
The parties signed the deal on Thursday in which festival organizers will make a one-time donation of $205,000 to the county, said Cordell.
The contribution will help cover a budget shortfall the county is experiencing.
“With this generous contribution, Bonnaroo has proven again that it is committed to the success of Coffee County,” Cordell said. “This $205,000 will allow us to upgrade emergency services that the county provides on a year-round basis, as well as ensure that our county libraries have the resources they need to serve our community. Bonnaroo may only be here for a few days a year, but their impact is felt year round. Going forward, Coffee County is committed to securing a long-term partnership that ensures the continued success of Bonnaroo and increased event capacity at Great Stage Park.”
Festival organizers are looking forward to a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership in the future to ensure the success of the festival.
“Throughout our 17 years, Bonnaroo has worked hard to make sure that we are a true partner with the local community, and I’m pleased that this $205,000 contribution will provide much-needed emergency management and education resources to the county,” said Jeff Cuellar, director of Bonnaroo community relations. “This agreement represents the first step in what we hope will lead to a new era at Bonnaroo and more importantly its home, Great Stage Park; one that enables all of us to build on the park’s hugely positive impact for area taxpayers, businesses and nonprofits for many decades to come.”
Festival organizers will make the contribution no later than five business days following the end of 2018 festival, according to the deal. This year’s festival wraps up on Sunday, June 10.
Public safety and education
Bonnaroo organizers have insisted on using the funds for initiatives that align with Bonnaroo’s mission of supporting educational and environmental projects.
The Coffee County Emergency Medical Services and the two county libraries will see upgrades.
Part of the $205,000 Axis donation will be directed toward purchasing an ambulance for $155,000. Ad-ditionally, the Coffee County Lannom Memorial Public Library in Tullahoma will see the parking lot re-paved and new flooring and security lights installed for $31,130. The Coffee County Manchester Public Library will also have its parking lot repaved and security lights installed for $16,000.
This agreement is essentially a continuation of the most recent deal that expired June 30; however, it outlines a relationship limited to 2018.
Under the expired deal, Bonnaroo paid a $3 fee for each ticket sold and a $30,000 flat fee to the county each year – amounting to roughly $250,000 annually. The negotiation of a new deal has been ongoing for more than a year.
Throughout negotiations, festival organizers have been clear they would not agree to extend the expired contract but would agree to continue generating ticket fees in order to create a designated fund for infrastructure improvements around Great Stage Park, the 700-acre farm home to the festival.
Bonnaroo representatives even suggested raising the fee from $3 to $4 per ticket to fund those infra-structure projects, chief among them the widening of Bushy Branch Road in Manchester. The proposed deal would have been for 10-year period to ensure a long-term relationship between the parties; however, the county failed to sign.
Then, in April, the Coffee County Commission voted to authorize Cordell to enter a one-year contract with Bonnaroo organizers that would carry over the terms of the expired agreement. In fact, despite the lack of any such agreement from Bonnaroo, the county had already included revenues from Bonnaroo’s ticket-fee contributions – an amount of $205,000 – in its FY18 budget. Without those funds, the county would be facing a budget shortfall.
While festival organizers have agreed to address the county’s budget gap this year, they say they are hoping to sign a long-term deal that would direct Bonnaroo-generated ticket fees toward infrastructure upgrades that would support additional events at the Great Stage Park.
Bonnaroo to pay for county services
According to the 2018 deal, Axis has also agreed, as promised, to continue to cover the preapproved costs associated with space and equipment rentals and those associated with police, medical, fire, traffic and public safety personnel provided by the county during the festival.
Within roughly 60 days of the festival’s end, Axis will provide the funds for the actual cost of services provided by the county during the event. Upon that payment, no additional contributions will be required by the county. Should such requests be made in the future beyond the agreed reimbursements and one-time contribution, Bonnaroo organizers have not ruled out exploring options outside Coffee County in the future, which could mean moving the entire festival elsewhere or potentially partnering with the City of Manchester instead.
Bringing sales tax revenue and supporting nonprofits
The large-scale entertainment event, staged in Coffee County since 2002, brings tens of thousands of visitors to the county every June. The attendees represent a considerable influx of economic activity. During the four days of the festival, about $1 million in sales tax revenue is generated on The Farm from ticket sales, on-site vending and merchandise.
Bonnaroo also supports community initiatives though its charitable arm, the Bonnaroo Works Fund. The organization has provided more than $7 million in grants to area nonprofits over the last 17 years to support educational and environmental causes aligned with the mission of Bonnaroo Works Fund.