HullabaLOU’s Big Loss

Despite its name, there was hardly a roar around the debut of Churchill Down’s HullabaLOU music festival, which company president and CEO Bob Evans recently revealed lost more than $5 million.

While the Louisville, Ky., racetrack has previously hosted hugely successful concerts including The Rolling Stones and The Police, this year marked its first attempt at a multi-day festival featuring more than 65 acts July 23-25.

In the leadup to the event, officials reportedly expected losses could mount to $2 million to $3 million, with attendance reaching 90,000. The lineup included big names such as Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Steve Miller Band and Colbie Caillat.

But Evans said during an investor conference call Aug. 5 that punishing heat, coupled with a national decline in concert ticket sales, left HullabaLOU well short of expectations, drawing more than 78,000.

“The question here is this: given that we lost over $5 million on this inaugural event why have we already announced that HullabaLOU will be back in 2011?” Evans said during the call, according to The Blood-Horse.

He added that the track’s goal is to produce an event along the lines of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, but that it “will take us several years to establish the HullabaLOU brand and to get to the point where the economics are meaningfully positive.

“We learned a lot with HullabaLOU this year and I guess we should have. It was an expensive education.”

Churchill Downs did get a bit of good news from audience surveys, however. The company announced that 99 percent of attendees surveyed said they would recommend HullabaLOU to their friends and 70 percent said they would definitely attend next year.

Details for HullabaLOU 2011 are reportedly on the table as Evans said the company is “going back to rework our thinking on this entire thing.”