Rezoning The Gorge
The designation might sound like Live Nation envisions a destination vacation spot in the middle of Washington state, but plans are much more “boring” than that, Live Nation divisional VP Danny Wilde says.
“The plan that best suited us from the entertainment industry standpoint was the Master Planned Resort designation,” Wilde told Pollstar. “It sounds like we’re going to become Disneyland or something, but that’s not the case. It basically gives us an opportunity to do more long-term planning.”
What the rezoning of the property does is bundle some 30 years’ worth of conditional use permits and allow for improvements to critical infrastructure like water, sewage and electricity. Neighbors have been uneasy with the rezoning, thinking of it as an expansion of the Gorge in terms of capacity and increases in traffic and other problems that come with more people. Wilde says there’s no plan to increase the current 22,000 capacity, but there are plans to update the venue to accommodate changes in its use over the years.
“It’s developed into more of a multi-use amphitheatre. We don’t just do one-night shows anymore; we now host three festivals there: Sasquatch!, Paradiso and Watershed,” Wilde said. “Most festivals put a little more use into the campground. For a one-night Tom Petty show, for example, we might see 1,500 vehicles in the campground. For a three-day festival it might be more like 7,000 vehicles. We needed an opportunity to update the facilities and the campground to provide better amenities for the campgrounds and amphitheatre alike.
“We just needed to bring this together into one master plan and present to the county our vision for the future of the venue.”
There is a small retail store on the property, and previous CUPs placed restrictions on its use and size. With the rezoning, Live Nation will be able to rebuild and enlarge the store to better serve those camping for multiple nights – and keeping them off rural roads on supply runs. Wilde acknowledges traffic mitigation continues to be a concern to neighbors, but adds that heavy traffic situations are “very few and far between.”
“What we laid out was, initially, just some infrastructure needs,” Wilde explained. “We bought some water rights last year and we are implementing some sewer upgrades this year. We’re putting up some fencing between the campground and the neighbors to improve the separation between the properties. Those are the immediate things. In the longer terms, we’ll be looking at that larger retail space, improved food and beverage options and offering different kinds of camping.”
That could include facilities for “glamping,” with canvas units that are a step above the two-person tents of old, as well as construction of cabins, putting in more spaces for recreational vehicles and improving shower facilities.
The wish list includes a zip line from the campground to the concert site, where improvements are to include upgraded concession stands and VIP club section. But none of it is going to happen suddenly, Wilde says.
The MPR designation is for 20 years, and Live Nation is looking at implementing its vision in five-year phases.