Music festival proposed for Research Campus

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 6, 2009

By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó Would a rock concert at the N.C. Research Campus help put Kannapolis on the map?
Gary Mills thinks so.
“We can make Kannapolis a destination,” the Parks and Recreation Director told city council members Thursday during a planning retreat.
Mills proposed a two-day music festival in June 2011, designed to draw people from throughout the Southeast.
The large, open area in front of the Core Lab Building on the N.C. Research Campus would make the best location for the festival, Mills said. The event would offer free family entertainment and rides on nearby Oak Avenue, he said.
As an alternative, Mills suggested the former Cannon Mills Plant No. 4 site, located at the south end of the downtown.
Village Park is another option, he said.
Cost for the event hasn’t been determined, but Mills said the city could cover a significant portion of the expense with ticket and alcohol sales.
The two-day festival would feature a national music act on Friday night and music all day Saturday on a variety of stages. Another national act would perform Saturday night.
A separate area would offer music, rides and free entertainment for families.
“We want to create a street party atmosphere,” Mills said.
The festival would kick off the city’s regular summer concert series, which attracts up to 55,000 people to Village Park each summer. The city would partner with a private business to host and organize the festival.
Concerns from city council members included the lack of hotel rooms in Kannapolis and parking.
The Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau has agreed to promote the event and would help direct people to hotel rooms, Mills said. The parking deck on the Research Campus provides ample downtown parking, and a shuttle could operate from satellite lots for overflow, he said.
Council member Randy Cauthen said he’s not sure the city’s beleaguered downtown is ready to host a major festival.
“We could bring people downtown, but what are they going to see?” Cauthen said.
Only a handful of merchants and a few restaurants survive in the Village, the brick shopping district that comprises downtown Kannapolis.
Many stores have left the Village, which has struggled in the shadow of the Research Campus and during the recession. Council members said they believe the campus eventually will bring more retail to the area, but they don’t know when.
The empty storefronts don’t look good, Cauthen said.
“I don’t want to hurt the image of our city by bringing people in too soon,” he said.
Many cities create an artificial two-block environment for large festivals, bringing in everything visitors need for the day, City Manager Mike Legg said.
If council doesn’t pursue the music festival, the popular summer concert series will continue.
Mills recommended selling alcohol at those concerts to draw more young professionals.
“That’s the number one complaint, no alcohol sales,” Mills said. “And the revenue from that could pay for the music festival.”