MSG’s First Festival

MSG Entertainment is moving beyond four-wall promotion and is preparing for a major three-day festival in upper New York starting in 2010.

MSG has bought a 910-acre parcel of land in scenic Springfield, a community of approximately 4,500 (according to a 2000 census) that includes an Amish community. The company has already met with the community and, apart from the pleadings of a small group of NIMBYs, has the support of the town.

Don Simpson, former chief of House of Blues Canada, has been put in charge of the operation. Although this would be MSG’s first outdoor event, Simpson put it in perspective, citing the company’s long history in major events at venues like Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.

"The only difference here is they don’t have four walls and a roof over the top," Simpson told Pollstar.

MSG Entertainment President Jay Marciano and staff began looking for a festival site in the state of New York last year, something that could accommodate a festival the size of Coachella, Bonnaroo or ACL, Simpson said. He was brought on board last fall to iron out the details.

"The location is just gorgeous," he said. "Beautiful rolling hills and green lower mountains. It’s one of those places where, when you see it, you go, ‘Wow, this looks so great.’"

The location is centrally located, drawing upon several major markets in a six-hour driving radius, including Boston, Syracuse, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York City, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. MSG estimated the draw at 40 million.

The site is near highway access but the town is a two-laner,. There are questions about traffic and sanitation, among other things, but Simpson stressed that it’s still early in the game. MSG is looking at RV parking sites and campsites near the parcel.

According to a New York Times article, the townspeople were split between their support over the advent of a major festival, but Simpson disagreed.

"Politely – how can I say it – the squeaky wheel gets the grease and a few people have made comments about it," he said. "We feel, so far, we’ve had overwhelming support. We held a community meeting back in June where we invited the community just to come and find out what it was all about and educate them. There are 1,200 people in the whole township and about 250 people showed up.

"There was great interest in the event and the overwhelming majority of the people who left that evening were very pleased and very excited about the project."

MSG has estimated the event, including a semi-permanent main stage, will cost $15 million, although Simpson agreed it was a preliminary estimate.

"We’ve got a long way to go. … That number could change as we get into it and decide to do more." – Joe Reinartz