After three years of having its mainstage inside KeyArena, Bumbershoot is moving its headliners back outdoors to Seattle Center’s Memorial Stadium this year.
The move was precipitated by potential scheduling conflicts at KeyArena with the WNBA.
The board of directors of One Reel, the nonprofit that puts on Seattle’s annual arts festival, voted on Tuesday to authorize the shift and the increased expenses associated with it.
“It’s what our patrons have been asking for, as many of them missed the stadium, which they associate strongly with Bumbershoot over the years,” said Aubrey Bergauer, Senior Director Community Engagement. “We’re excited that we’ve come up with a way to make the venue work with better staging.”
Though ticket prices will rise this year, the new rates were set right after last year’s Bumbershoot, “before any mainstage change was considered,” said festival public relations manager Barbara Mitchell.
Memorial Stadium was built in 1947 and has accommodated as many as 18,000 when acts such as Bob Dylan packed the venue. That makes it slightly bigger than KeyArena, but it’s also more expensive due to production costs.
After financial shortfalls in 2010, the year Dylan packed the stadium, Bumbershoot moved the main stage to KeyArena where it has remained the last three festivals. KeyArena is already set up for concerts, so production costs there are lower, and it was an easier venue to set up.
Bumbershoot starts this year on August 30, potentially creating a conflict if the Seattle Storm makes the playoffs. Though Bumbershoot officials stress the Storm was cooperative, the WNBA was unwavering that Bumbershoot was out.
“We were notified in late fall that we would not be able to use KeyArena this year, and we set out exploring every conceivable way to find a place for the mainstage programming,” said Jon Stone, One Reel’s executive director.
After the notification, festival planners came up with options, but ultimately decided on the stadium. The decision was made easier by successful festivals in 2012 and 2013, which increased revenues and drew positive notices.
Organizers also said the stadium stage will be erected on the 50 yard line, not the end zone, where it has been in the past, and that a new entrance and exit plan will allow for easier flow-through.
“The biggest problem with the stadium was the congestion getting in and out,” said Mitchell. “Our current plan solves that, but also makes it a financial option our board will support.”
The shift to the stadium also will mean more headliners this year.
“Rather than two headliners each day, with two opening acts, as we had last year,” Bergauer said, “we’ll have three headliners every day. This is a bigger, better Bumbershoot.”
A separate side stage will feature opening acts, meaning that there will be music most of the day in the stadium.
“We think people will come and go as a result,” Bergauer says. “At KeyArena people stayed in their seats to save their spots for the headliner, which cut down on turnover.”
Advance tickets sales for 2014’s Bumbershoot have been particularly strong, said Bergauer, which made the increased expenses easier for the One Reel board to support. Advance three-day passes currently cost $112, a discount from a regular price of $186, which goes into effect in May. Last year’s regular three-day pass was $140.
Bumbershoot’s fortunes also saw an unexpected rise this past week when the Sasquatch Festival announced that its July date was canceled. Some of the July Sasquatch acts will most likely move to Bumbershoot.
Though Bumbershoot doesn’t announce its lineup until May, the most obvious Sasquatch band that could shift to Bumbershoot would be Soundgarden, a band the festival tried to book last year. Fans won’t find out for sure until May 8, but on that day, after a “reveal” event at Neumo’s, fans will still have several hours to get advance tickets before a price increase the next day. Last year the festival sold 120,000 advance tickets.
One Reel staffers were also quick to note that significant construction at Seattle Center may mean more changes ahead in the future.
“Seattle Center is an ever-evolving space,” observed Stone.