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ACL Fest’s $264M economic impact comes with $5M gift to parks foundation

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 by Chad Swiatecki

The 2018 Austin City Limits Festival pumped more than $264 million into the Austin economy, according to data released Monday by festival organizers and the city. That represents an increase of more than $10 million in impact created by the 2017 edition of the festival that runs for two weekends each October in Zilker Park.

The announcement came during a press conference at Edward Rendon Metro Park where C3 Presents, the Austin-based festival promoter that launched the festival in 2002, presented a check for over $5 million to the Austin Parks Foundation. The money will be used in coordination with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to fund improvements at parks throughout the city.

To date C3 has donated more than $35 million for parks improvements throughout the city, in addition to paying for reconstruction and installation of an irrigation system for the Zilker Park Great Lawn.

Mayor Steve Adler said the festival and its donations are an example of the private sector giving needed funds to keep Austin a desirable place for residents and visitors.

“There’s a lot that happens in this city when the private community in businesses and philanthropists also help in making sure that this city preserves what it is that’s special,” he said. “Government operating by itself can’t do near everything that we need to have done. We’re here today to recognize one of those things in our city that is one of our engines that makes our quality of life what it is.”

The economic impact announcement came the day before the ACL festival is slated to reveal the lineup for its 2019 edition and as the parks department is possibly facing a budget shortfall of more than $2 million, depending on actions taken by the state Legislature to place caps on annual revenue increases for cities from property taxes. C3’s contract with Parks and Recreation for Zilker Park is negotiated every year, with its level of giving to the parks foundation – which effectively is funding for the parks department – determined as a percentage of gross ticket sales.

“With our last contract we knew we had a responsibility to give back and improve the green space that we impact,” said Charlie Jones, one of the founding partners of C3. “We negotiated a very lucrative yet fair deal that funds parks from a gross percentage right off the top.”

Local economist Angelos Angelou, whose firm Angelou Economics compiled the analysis for C3, said ACL Fest has a secure and significant place in the Austin entertainment economy. The study’s findings were compiled based on surveys of out-of-town visitors to determine how much they spent on hotels, retail and hospitality while at the festival.

“At nearly $265 million of economic impact and growing every year, this is lower than South by Southwest and a bit lower than F1 (Formula 1), but we know this is an important part of what we call the festival economy,” he said. “The growth is a big number and it’s coming from greater attendance, programming over 150 bands and the fact that the weather cooperated in 2018 more than it did in 2017 when we had a lot of rain and it was muddy.”

Liana Kallivoka, assistant director for PARD, said concerns over the festival’s impact on Zilker Park overlook the fact that C3 pays for complete restoration after every festival as part of its contract with the city.

“The Great Lawn would not be that great without the capital investments from ACL,” she said. “Just look at the fact that we now have an irrigation system and the whole lawn has been rebuilt since they’ve become involved in its upkeep.”

Photo by Lars Plougmann made available through a Creative Commons license.

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