Slugging It Out In The Ring

Two of Germany’s heavyweight promoters appear poised to slug it out with festivals on the same weekend, following DEAG’s announcement that it’s moving in to Marek Lieberberg’s previous longtime Rock Am Ring site at the Nürburgring.
The promoter gets down with Germany's Die Toten Hosen at Rock Am Ring in 2005. 

On the first weekend of June 2015, when Lieberberg’s Rock Am Ring would traditionally take place, DEAG’s starting a new festival called “Green Hell – Rockfestival am Nürburgring” on the Formula One racetrack near the Eifel mountains.

Green Hell is the nickname that three-time world champion F1 driver Jackie Stewart gave the track, considered one of the most difficult drives in the world.

Lieberberg, who has promoted Rock Am Ring on the site for nearly 30 years, is trying to shift the event to the former British and NATO military base at Rheindahlen.

He’s happy with the way negotiations are progressing with the local authority at Rheindalen, which stewards the site for the federal government, which took it over from the British Army and NATO in 2013. Rock am Ring will still take place on the first weekend of June.

Many German observers think that starting the summer season with two 80,000-capacity festivals on the same weekend could turn into a bidding war.

DEAG chief Peter Schwenkow and his festival team, which includes Wizard Promotions chief Ossy Hoppe, his son Oliver, and recently acquired UK promoter Stuart Galbraith, booked their toe-to-toe with Lieberberg when their June 3 announcement called the new event “the successor to Rock am Ring.”

It appeared the DEAG team had not only usurped Lieberberg’s slot at the Nürburgring but also his festival when Ossy Hoppe said “this amazing event will continue to be staged in future, albeit under a different name.”

“We take over major responsibility. The Nürburgring is a matter which is very close to the heart of many fans, and it is our declared goal to send the fans home more happily at the end of every year,” Oliver Hoppe added.

However, Schwenkow told Bild it isn’t war, it’s just competition.

Lieberberg has made it clear that he’s competing and is confident that his Rock am Ring will survive the battle with Schwenkow’s newcomer.

“It will be a new festival against a well-established festival on the same weekend,” he told Pollstar. Lieberberg has had difficulties with the Nürburgring for the couple of months since Capricorn Group, a collection of private investors headed by the German auto parts maker of the same name, bought the circuit out of bankruptcy for euro 100 million ($136 million).

The new owner was driving a hard bargain over a new contract to continue with Rock Am Ring on the site, but Lieberberg wasn’t prepared to pay the new asking price.

He says there is some beautiful parkland on the new site at Rheindalen, but the place is more like a small town than a military installation and most of the ground is covered by buildings.

A huge festival with camping and parking would likely require an agreement with local farmers to use some of the neighbouring land. The festival itself is nearly 100 miles from the Nürburgring, but – and possibly more important for the European festival market – it’s barely 30 miles from Pinkpop (on the other side of the Dutch border), which usually happens around the same time as Rock am Ring.