News Column

Commissioners weigh sponsoring new music event

August 28, 2014

By David Taube, Beaver County Times, Pa.

Aug. 28--BEAVER -- A Beaver County Commissioners workshop meeting had quite the guest Wednesday: Concert promoter Rich Engler.

Engler, who has brought The Beatles and others to the Pittsburgh region, was there to discuss a new festival commissioners have been considering. The event may occur at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Big Beaver, where music fans could listen to bands within the raceway.

"Presently the county lacks large attractions to draw major crowds," Tourism Director Tim Ishman said. "The event will also showcase the best the county has to offer."

But commissioners must first decide whether they want to spend $35,000 to act as sponsorship money. Engler said he'd need at least $85,000 from sponsors to make the event possible, and it's unclear how much tickets would cost or what bands would play.

"It could potentially be a free event," Engler said.

The proposed event could occur in July or August of 2015 and repeat annually.

A presentation suggested the event could feature a major rock band and major country band with name recognition to draw a crowd, but Engler said he didn't know which bands might be involved yet. Concerts would occur at 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., according to a handout.

"Getting an act first of all is not going to be easy," he said.

Engler also said four months before the event, a battle of the bands could occur, where the winner would act as the opening band for the festival.

The festival could also involve art vendors and an art show, craft displays, history-related events with re-enactors, food vendors and beer, and go-karts that are available at the race complex.

Ishman said the event could help brand the county as a destination in the tri-county area, drawing tens of thousands of people as a public-private partnership.

Commissioner Dennis Nichols said he thought the event could set up the county for future years and others could look toward the area as progressive. Potential businesses may also look at the quality of life the area offers, commissioners said.

Presenters noted Stage AE's 5,000 to 10,000 crowd events could be a major competition.

Amadio said he wanted to see a formal proposal, and commissioners said they plan to have another meeting to decide whether to designate the money.

If commissioners don't earmark money, Ishman said the money could come from his department. Engler said if commissioners and he are not happy with the proposed show, he'd return the county's sponsorship money. According to a project plan, $17,500 would be due this year.

The county has sponsored other annual events, but the amounts have typically been capped around $5,000.

More than 30 years ago, Engler started what is now The Jamboree In The Hills festival in Belmont, Ohio, near Wheeling, W.Va., on the runway of a county airport, he said. The festival has become known as the Super Bowl of country music.

Commissioners have eyed the race track previously, and they once considered a two-day event where they would have faced the risks and rewards of such a venue themselves. Commissioners heard a presentation at the venue more than a year ago, commissioners Chairman Tony Amadio said, but that event would have cost more than $200,000, Ishman said.

Now a scaled back version would mean Engler would act as the lead, taking the risk and reward.

"I'll be happy to break even," Engler said, later adding, "I've made more money than I've lost."


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Source: Beaver County Times (PA)

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