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County to discuss Bonnaroo contract Tuesday

Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 8:00 am


Elena Cawley


Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival representative Sam Reed is expected to attend the Coffee County Commission meeting on Tuesday to update officials on the proposed new contract between the county and music festival organizers.

The current contract, which has been in effect since 2006, ended June 30.

Officials from both sides have been negotiating terms of the new agreement for several months, with the hope of finalizing it in November; however, voting on the issue is not on Tuesday’s agenda.

In a letter to Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell, Reed said that on Tuesday he will inform commissioners and the public about the discussed options for ticket fees for the next several years.

Reed also plans to share information about the economic impact of the festival, according to the letter.

Important topics of the discussion will be holding multiple events each year and raising funds for improving infrastructure, which would be necessary before additional events could be held on the grounds, according to Reed.


Widening of Bushy Branch Road

The first infrastructure project outlined by Bonnaroo is widening of Bushy Branch Road in Manchester.

Festival organizers have been in discussions with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to widen a 2.9-mile section of Bushy Branch Road. The majority of festival attendees use Bushy Branch Road off I-24’s exit 111 to enter the festival site.

According to festival organizers, the project would cost about $6 million.

Bonnaroo organizers are planning to widen Bushy Branch Road from Ragsdale Road to Shed Road. The road would be expanded from two to three lanes, and there will also be a pedestrian lane to make it safer for people who walk to the festival’s entrance.

Widening of this road will significantly relieve traffic at the exit and improve safety, according to organizers.

Festival organizers have been working to secure funds from TDOT for the project.

On Nov. 7, Coffee County Budget and Finance Committee members agreed to support a letter to TDOT. The purpose of the letter is to determine if Coffee County would qualify for a 50/50 grant match program for the road project.

Reed is expected to provide more details about the road project and other infrastructure projects on Tuesday.

“We will outline how we’ll go about it – by focusing on the road project first and securing as much TDOT money as possible to get it done quickly,” Reed said. “We will prioritize the debt service on the road and look to make additional infrastructure improvements once we have ample revenue to do so, all with the goal of securing more events at the site.”

According to Cordell, Manchester has also sent a letter of support to TDOT for the grant application, which is necessary because a bridge on Bushy Branch Road is in Manchester city limits.



Earlier this year, county officials and Bonnaroo representatives began talks about the new contract, shortly after the previous contract ended June 30.

One of the less popular changes in the proposed contract, according to county officials, is the elimination of the flat fee of $30,000, which was previously received by the county. In the proposed contract, ticket fees, also previously received by the county, will go to a fund to be used for infrastructure improvements.

The expired contract between the two parties outlined the fees organizers paid to the county for events held at Great Stage Park, the 700-acre home of Bonnaroo. The agreement was first negotiated in 2006.

This contract only mentioned Bonnaroo as a possible event at the site and did not refer to possibilities for holding additional events or any fees that would be collected from other events.

With a $3 fee for every Bonnaroo ticket sold and a $30,000 flat fee, the county received a check for about $250,000 each year, according to the old contract. Those funds went to the county’s general fund and county officials could utilize the money for countywide projects.

According to the expired agreement, Bonnaroo would also reimburse the county within 60 days of the festival’s end for expenses related to services provided specifically for the event. Those additional costs include overtime pay for law enforcement, expenses for ambulance service and road maintenance, and repairs incurred as a direct result of damage caused by traffic from Bonnaroo.


Proposed contract

When festival organizers first shared the proposed contract with county officials several months ago, they hoped to have it approved by members of the Coffee County Commission in September or November.

However, voting on the issue is not on the agenda for the upcoming meeting on Tuesday.

Organizers hope the new agreement will be in place for a 10-year period.

Elena Cawley may be reached by email at tngenrep@lcs.net.