ATLANTIC CITY - Dave Matthews Band, one of the nation's most popular jam bands, will headline a three-day music festival at Atlantic City's defunct Bader Field municipal airport in late June, according to sources with knowledge of the event.
Negotiations are in the final stages between the Langford administration and concert promoters to bring Dave Matthews Band and several other acts to Atlantic City for concerts on June 24, 25 and 26. The Atlantic City festival will be the first of four music festivals the band will headline throughout the summer as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Public Works Director Paul Jerkins confirmed Wednesday night that he took representatives from Red Light Management on a tour of the Bader Field site earlier in the day. Although Jerkins said he has been given no details about the concert or the scheduled entertainment, Dave Matthews Band is one of Red Light Managment's clients.
Sources said Bader Field will feature three stages during the three-day event, including a main stage for the headliner and two small stages for other bands.
On Tuesday, the band's website posted official dates for two of four concert events, including a three-day event from June 24 through June 26 located in the "North East/Mid Atlantic" region. The second three-day festival is scheduled in early July in the "Midwest." Details for shows in August and September were also not available.
"The multi-stage events will feature a wide array of diverse musical talent with Dave Matthews Band performing a headlining set each night," the website reads. "Exact locations, lineups, ticketing and lodging info will be announced soon."
A Press of Atlantic City reporter also viewed documents showing the city approved a special events permit and license agreement for Starr Hill Presents Atlantic City LLC to hold a three-day, outdoor, live music festival at Bader Field on June 24, 25 and 26. The company, incorporated in late December, is a subsidiary of Starr Hill Presents, a Virginia-based independent, live entertainment promoter. The company has participated in coordinating nationwide music festivals, such as the Boonaroo Music and Arts Festival, the Mile High Music Festival in Denver and the Wanderlust festivals in Florida, Vermont and California.
Representatives from Starr Hill Presents did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
Hotel owners in Atlantic City are already preparing for the event, which sources said could draw about 75,000 people per day. The Atlantic City Hilton's website has a block of rooms reserved for purchase from June 23 through June 28 for an event simply titled "Starr Hill Presents."
The Dave Matthews Band is known for its annual summer tours, but band members had previously announced that they would be taking the year off. This year's limited summer schedule is sure to draw considerable crowds to the band's performances, which are known for their improvisational renditions and elaborate video and light shows.
Originally formed in Virginia, the Grammy Award-winning band fuses rock, jazz, bluegrass and soul. The band's biggest hits include "Crash Into Me," "So Much To Say" and "Too Much." Unlike many jam bands that have difficulty selling records despite selling out concerts regularly, the Dave Matthews Band has sold more than 30 million records.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford has repeatedly declined to discuss details of the event, other than to confirm that negotiations were ongoing to hold a three-day music festival at Bader Field. Late last week, the mayor said he would hold a news conference "within two weeks" regarding the concert and other accomplishments and initiatives of his Strategic Planning Committee, a group of community, political and business leaders in Atlantic City that routinely meet discuss ways of revitalizing the resort. Other committee members have said that the idea for a concert at Bader Field originated from the panel.
The concerts will mark the first time Bader Field has been used since the site was closed as a municipal airport in 2006. City officials closed the runways with hopes of putting the 142-acre tract on the market with an eye for a casino developer. In October 2008, shortly before he left office, Mayor Scott Evans formally put out a request for proposals to buy the site. The effort, announced at the start of nation's credit crisis, produced no formal offers.
The Langford administration has since hired a local firm to find buyers for the property. The mayor has claimed on several occassions that a viable offer for the tract has been made, but he has refused to identify the prospective buyer or any new formal bidding plans.
Dave Matthews Band is the second nationally acclaimed jam band to choose Atlantic City has a concert venue in less than a year. In October, Phish sold out a three-day concert series at Boardwalk Hall, which holds more than 14,000 fans.
Unlike the Phish show, which forced concert-goers to use the Boardwalk as a tailgating venue, the Bader Field concert will surely provide more space for the expected flood of fans. But the festival will also be a significant undertaking for city officials, who will have to get the city-owned tract into shape and plan traffic and crowd management in only four months.
Paul Jerkins, the city's director of Public Works, said members of the administration have not provided him with exact details of event in order to determine what type of maintenance is needed at the site. However, he said he didn't expect any major needs for repairs, noting that driving tests for bus drivers commonly take place at the site.
Carol Ruffu, a member of the mayor's committee, said there had previously been discussions about using casino-employee parking on the Atlantic City Expressway as additional parking for the event, with possible shuttles transporting fans to Bader Field. Ruffu, a resident of Chelsea Heights, the neighborhood adjacent to Bader Field, said she would ask fellow residents about any concern
"I certainly don't have any concerns," she said. "I'm for anything that's going to make Atlantic City better, and this makes Atlantic City better."
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