Coachella at the Rose Bowl? A music and arts festival is on the horizon

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Concertgoers toss t-shirts in the air at the 2014 Coachella Music & Arts Festival. The Rose Bowl is pursuing a music festival of its own, slated for the summer of 2016 (Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb).

It took Darryl Dunn just one visit to San Francisco’s beloved Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival to be convinced — this is the future of Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

“It was a great vibe,” Dunn, the CEO of the Rose Bowl Operating Company (RBOC), which manages the Rose Bowl, recalled. “It was fun. And we were like, ‘could this happen at the Rose Bowl?’ And we thought ‘ya know, maybe it can.'”

Last month, the RBOC Board signed a letter of intent with concert juggernaut AEG Live to throw a weekend-long music and arts festival in the Arroyo. The contract spans ten years, with two five-year extensions possible. Dunn says the inaugural event could take place as early as next summer.

Details about the future music and arts festival remain murky, but here’s what’s known: The event would feature musical acts, including bands and DJs, art installations and food and beverage vendors. Additionally, the festival would capitalize on the land surrounding the Rose Bowl, including the adjacent 36-hole Brookside Golf Course.

AEG Live North America President Rick Mueller declined to comment on his company’s plans for a Rose Bowl music and arts festival. A spokesperson for Goldenvoice, which puts on the Coachella Music & Arts Festival and is AEG Live’s partner in the Rose Bowl deal, said it was “too early” to begin discussing festival plans.

And all that uncertainty has left many Pasadena residents feeling uneasy about the proposed event, and the disruption it may cause to surrounding communities.

“Traffic, unruly behavior, littering, public urination, swearing, public drunkenness vomiting, trash; those are the types of things that the neighbors have to endure each time there’s a big event at the Rose Bowl,” said Geoffrey Baum, President of the West Pasadena Residents’ Association, which represents some 5,000 households in the area.

“We can’t have a Coachella in Pasadena,” he added.

Fireworks light up the sky over the Rose Bowl in Pasadena during a July 4 celebration (Photo by Karol Franks, obtained via Creative Commons license).
Fireworks light up the sky over the Rose Bowl in Pasadena during a July 4 celebration (Photo by Karol Franks, obtained via Creative Commons license).(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Last year, the Rose Bowl hosted 18 events, exceeding the city mandated limit of 12 per year. Festival proponents, like Pasadena City Councilman Victor Gordo, believe an annual music festival could help reduce that number by providing a predictable, lucrative revenue stream. The preliminary deal guarantees $3 million in net earnings for the Rose Bowl Operating Company. To put that figure in perspective, it takes the Bowl an entire year to earn roughly the same amount from the Brookside Golf Course.

Local businesses, hotels and restaurants are also expected to profit from the event.

An annual festival would may also allow residents inconvenienced by the music and traffic extra time to skip town, or make other plans, when the festival takes place, Gordo added.

The City of Pasadena prides itself on throwing a couple big events each year, from “The Parade” referring to the Tournament of Roses Parade, to the “The Game,” the USC-UCLA college football match-up. Gordo, who also serves as President of the RBOC, says he’s looking for “The Festival,” something that can be uniquely Pasadena.

“This is not a rave. This is not Coachella,” said Gordo. “Coachella is successful in Coachella. Coachella would not be successful in the Arroyo or the Rose Bowl.”

The festival must now undergo a six-month-long environmental impact review, and gather feedback from the surrounding community.

For more on the composition of the RBOC, click here. And click here for the Rose Bowl’s 2015 events calendar.