Goldenvoice’s purchase of Coachella festival land applauded

Local politicos and music mavens on Monday applauded Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival promoter Goldenvoice’s decision to purchase 280 acres of land surrounding the stages for its annual concert event in Indio, Calif.

The purchase of the Eldorado Polo Club and three surrounding ranches will enable the Los Angeles-based, AEG-owned concert promoter to increase its Coachella presence and perhaps add jazz, blues and Latin concerts to its schedule.

“With them purchasing this, the sky is the limit,” said Indio Mayor Glenn Miller.

Terms of the deal announced this weekend were not disclosed, and Goldenvoice principals Paul Tollett and Skip Paige declined interview requests.

While Goldenvoice did not state its reasons for buying the land, the move signals its long-term commitment to the city as the preferred venue for Coachella and its country-focused sister event, Stagecoach. The Empire Polo Club, where Coachella stages are actually set, remains independently owned, but the purchase hints at the concert promoter’s ambition to transform the desert town of Indio into a year-round destination for music tourism — with festivals that combine music with food or wine.

“I’ve asked [Goldenvoice] as the mayor to work together with Empire Polo Club and the Eldorado Polo Club to promote more concerts,” Miller said. “Maybe not concerts as big as Coachella or Stagecoach, but a Latin concert, as we have a large Hispanic community out here, or maybe a jazz and blues event.”

Goldenvoice in recent years has invested heavily in the Coachella grounds and the surrounding area, where it has staged the festival since its 1999 inception. Prior to the 2011 event, Goldenvoice helped fund an extra lane to Avenue 50, which borders the festival site. Last year’s festival was also physically larger than previous events, as Goldenvoice leveled a 250,000-square-foot area, moved horse stables and created more space for fans.

“It’s clear that Goldenvoice are upping their game out in the desert,” said Jeff Castelaz, owner of Dangerbird Records and Management in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake area. “They’ve put down stakes once a year for over a decade. By purchasing land, they move from renter to community stakeholder.”

Coachella — now regularly a sell-out with approximately 90,000 people expected per day for six complete days of its festival run this year — has established itself as the premier multi-day music event on the West Coast and the unofficial kickoff of the annual summer concert season. This year, it will be bigger still, spilling for the first time over two consecutive weekends, the first on April 13-15 and the second on April 20-22. Each weekend is a separate ticket but will feature identical lineups.

Goldenvoice has staged other events on the grounds, outside the Coachella purview, including a Halloween concert from jam band Phish in 2009. But don’t look for the Eldorado Polo Club to instantly transform into a music lover’s resort.

“When you look at the cars parked at Coachella, you see license plates from all around the country,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry trade Pollstar. “So people already do think of the area as a destination for music to some extent. Can they do this every weekend? Probably not.”

Bongiovanni said the promoter could create a series of smaller events and festivals in the spring and fall. Still, Goldenvoice doesn’t need to stage multiple annual blockbusters in order to recoup its investment. “They could very well be happy with a jazz festival that draws 10,000 people,” Bongiovanni said.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on its plans for the property, but said the transaction would not affect the pricing or access to the parking or campgrounds at this year’s festivals.

Concert promoter Tom Windish, whose namesake Windish Agency books a number of Coachella artists, said the purchase would bring about welcome improvements for Coachella concertgoers. “I can’t see how it could be worse,” he said, noting that Goldenvoice now has more incentive to build roads, create permanent fixtures for campers or run water lines.

“When they’re renting, the people owning the land have different needs outside of a festival,” Windish said.

Eldorado Polo Club General Manger Jan Hart said that Goldenvoice’s purchase agreement with landowners required that polo continue to be staged at the site “in perpetuity.” Indio’s mayor, Miller, said that would limit Goldenvoice’s ability to develop the land, as the open fields need to remain safe for matches.

“They can make a hotel,” Miller said. “They can put up shrubbery to block sound. They can do a lot of stuff to improve the experience for people at the venue and people who aren’t at the concert.”

Miller said that the city is in the middle of a two-year deal with Goldenvoice, but that he hoped to soon have a long-term agreement in place. He noted that he did receive some “grief” from neighboring communities about Coachella noise and the daily influx of more than 100,000 people, including vendors and security, but specified that he wanted to “do a 10-year deal up front, where we know we’re solidified and everyone knows about it.”

Castelaz said the investment in Indio land should put fans’ minds at ease about Coachella continuing to improve. “Goldenvoice started the way most of us did — scrapping it out on the streets, and now they are paying to widen roads,” he said. “That kind of commitment is an inspiration to us all.”

As for local residents’ complaints, the mayor offered no comfort. “The concerts are a big part of the economy, and people understand that, but they would prefer they are smaller and quieter,” Miller said. “That’s just not going to happen.”