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SXSW reps, CoA staff working with consultant

Friday, August 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Representatives from the South by Southwest festival and the City of Austin participated in a two-day workshop this week with a major architectural design and event firm brought in to discuss the SXSW event. Officials from both organizations confirmed they had met with Populous, an international consultancy with a project list that includes Super Bowls and Olympic Games.

“Populous held a two-day workshop for SXSW and CoA staff, which was primarily for gathering information and looking to best practices developed by some of the world’s leading events to help them consult with SXSW and CoA to help formulate and refine our planning,” SXSW Brand Development and Special Projects honcho Brad Spies told the Monitor via email. “This is our first time working with Populous, and we felt their experience with large, complex events such as the Olympics, Super Bowl and FIFA World Cup — and the work with the different municipalities that host them — would be useful in planning for the challenges we face in achieving the continued success of SXSW.”

Austin Police Department Commander William Manno, who does special event work, echoed Spies’ remarks. “SXSW contracted with Populous, and we are sharing various aspects of SXSW with them and they are sharing experiences with large events all over the globe with us,” Manno said via email. “This workshop allows SXSW and city staff to examine best practices at many other large events and identify strategies to incorporate within SXSW and other large events in Austin.”

Spies noted that discussions during the workshop included a host of topics, “from small changes to large ones,” he said. Spies added that, in addition to representatives from APD, city officials from the Austin Fire Department, the Austin/Travis County EMS Department, the city’s Transportation Department and the city’s special events team all took part in the discussion.

“We think it made a positive difference,” he added.

Spies did not did respond to a question about whether the meeting was related at all to the events of last year’s festival. There, a drunken driver killed two people and injured several others while trying to evade a traffic stop. The crash drew national attention.

SXSW officials over the years have maintained that much of the chaos associated with the main event is related to unsanctioned events. Last year, officials made an effort to cut down on last minute permitting in an attempt to bring an additional measure of control to the festival.

Meanwhile, revisions to an ordinance meant to address global special events issues — called, not-surprisingly, the Special Events Ordinance -remains in process.  (See Austin Monitor, Aug. 19)

 

 

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