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Indio OKs plan to hold, expand Coachella festival through 2030

Indio OKs plan to hold, expand Coachella festival through 2030
The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival crowd in 2012.
(Los Angeles Times)

Any uncertainty over the long-term home for Goldenvoice’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and its country cousin Stagecoach has come to an end. Indio on Wednesday granted approval of Goldenvoice’s proposal to stage and expand its festival offerings in the desert city, clearing the way for an agreement that will keep Coachella and Stagecoach in Indio through at least 2030.

Goldenvoice, a subsidary of AEG Live, has in turn agreed to increase the amount of per-ticket revenue it shares with the city begining in 2014. For its 2013 festivals -- Coachella will be held the weekends of April 12 and April 19 and Stagecoach is set for the weekend of April 26 -- the promoter is giving $2.33 per ticket sold to Indio. Starting in 2014, that figure will increase to $5.01 per ticket sold, said Joe Lim, Indio’s planning manager.

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Indio’s City Council voted 4 to 0 in favor of Goldenvoice’s proposal. Mayor Elaine Holmes did not vote because of a conflict of interest regarding property holdings near the festival grounds. Lim said reaching a long-term agreement with Goldenvoice would be a “significant milestone” in the development of the desert city, which has taken to calling itself the “city of festivals” and features a guitar amp in its logo.

TIMELINE: Coachella and Stagecoach

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In March, the city’s Planning Commission, which oversaw Goldenvoice’s bid and collected public statements, recommended that the council approve the bid in a 5-0 vote. In making its pitch for long-term expansion, Goldenvoice prepared a thousand-plus-page environmental impact report, which Indio made available for public scrutiny in late December.

Perhaps most importantly, at least from a fan perspective, the proposal lays the groundwork for Goldenvoice to expand from offering three high-capacity events each year to five. Coachella’s dual weekends, followed by the fest’s country music Stagecoach, a post-Coachella fixture in Indio since 2008, will remain, and the promoter will have the freedom to stage two concerts in the fall -- one festival with a maximum capacity of 75,000 and the other topping out at a whopping 99,000 attendees. There is no guarantee that Goldenvoice will stage festivals in the fall. 

“Our tourist season begins in October and ends in April, so to begin with two festivals and end with three more would book-end nicely,” said Dan Martinez, Indio city manager. “It has huge support on a city level. It really impacts our community greatly. Many people would like to see the number of festivals expand.”

Held at the Empire Polo Grounds since its 1999 inception, Coachella has a reputation for presenting a heavily curated lineup that connects the dots among hitmakers, underground artists and those on the comeback trail, all within a desert setting that’s increasingly becoming more resort-like, with upscale options to match (at the highest end of the VIP configurations there are $6,500 air-conditioned tents). 

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Losing Coachella and Stagecoach, which were only contracted with Indio through this year’s events, would have meant missing out on what just may be the biggest money-making festival in the world. Goldenvoice in 2012 doubled its Coachella crowd by expanding to two weekends, and added a third day to the Stagecoach festival. The aggregate attendance at the desert festivals passed half a million for the first time, reaching 650,000.

FULL COVERAGE: Coachella 2013

Goldenvoice in 2012 sold 80,726 tickets for the first Coachella weekend, 77,661 for the second Coachella weekend and 55,772 tickets for Stagecoach. Starting in 2014, Goldenvoice will be allowed to expand Coachella to hold 99,000 attendees and up Stagecoach attendance to 75,000. 

The overall economic impact of the three April festivals on the Indio economy was estimated in 2012 to be about $89.21 million, according to a report from the Development Management Group. For its part, the city of of Indio, the report says, directly received $1,385,196 million in revenue from the events, and the three Goldenvoice concerts were estimated to represent just under 5% of Indio’s general fund. With the addition of the two festivals in the fall, revenue to Indio could increase to $2,746,667

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In addition to the average $368 cost of a 2012 wristband for the two Coachella concerts, those who attended were determined to have spent an average $98 at the festival. Additionally, more than $17 million was spent at desert city hotels for the first 2012 Coachella alone, and it’s estimated that more than $8 million was spent on food and retail for the first Coachella weekend.

Despite the figures, not everyone in Indio was so eager to welcome more Goldenvoice concerts. The environmental impact report contains numerous letters of complaints from residents, one of whom reported that “30 fence slats” were destroyed by attendees, and another said Coachella guests “visited” homeowners with “an urgent need to urinate and defecate in their pools.” 

On the flip side, the environmental impact report is full of letters of praise from those who live in the desert, a vast majority of them writing on behalf of the businesses for which they work. Even the Chamber of Commerce for neighboring La Quinta, which last year labeled Goldenvoice its “business of the year,” has urged for the swift approval of the proposal.

It’s perhaps no surprise that hotels are on board with the plan. Palm Springs’ Ace Hotel, Indian Wells’ Hyatt Regency, the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa and Indian Wells’ Miramonte Resort & Spa are among the numerous hoteliers asking for additional festivals in the fall. P.S. Resorts, a booster group for Palm Springs tourism, encourages not just more festivals, but “an increase in attendance for each of the events.”

The dual Coachellas grossed more than $47 million, according to data from Billboard Boxscore, the highest box office total ever for a festival. 

Coachella’s future in Indio became national news last summer when it appeared that there was a possibility Goldenvoice would take its event elsewhere after an Indio councilman proposed an amusement tax. The city quickly backtracked on its effort and immediately pledged to work out a long-term agreement with Goldenvoice.  

-- Chris Lee contributed to this post

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