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Concerts Could Help Raise Funds for Parks : Budget: Rock event at Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area called a success, but some residents decry traffic jams.

August 12, 1993|PHILIP P. PAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRWINDALE — They didn't much care for the long-haired fans, the grating music or the bumper-to-bumper traffic at last weekend's Lollapalooza rock concert, but county park officials are enthusiastic about plans to begin holding concerts regularly at the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area.

Looking for a new source of revenue as they struggle with budget cuts, park officials said they would like to hold as many as four concerts annually in the 800-acre county facility in Irwindale.

"We've always been of the frame of mind that our parks are for the benefit of families and not so much for big concerts. But these days, we're also looking at ways to generate revenue," said Fred Evans, superintendent of the Santa Fe Dam.

Lollapalooza, a traveling alternative rock festival, paid the Parks and Recreation Department $150,000 to hold the event in the park last Friday and Saturday. It was the Santa Fe Dam's largest contract ever, and the first major concert there in five years.

Although park officials rated the event a success, local officials in Irwindale complained that the traffic on Arrow Highway brought their town to a standstill, and some said they would fight any future events that tie up traffic.

"It was very difficult getting in and out of the city on both days," said City Manager David Coretto. "Our business community was very significantly affected."

Coretto said the city is still evaluating its position on future concerts at the Santa Fe Dam. The Lollapalooza promoters said they paid the city $17,000 to cover police overtime costs and about $20,000 in business license fees.

The traffic was much worse on Friday than on Saturday, officials said. Irwindale police said concert-goers jammed the streets as they arrived between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. And it took more than three hours for the approximately 13,000 cars to exit the parking lot at the end of the night.

"The problem is this facility wasn't designed for that kind of event. There are two entrances, but there is really only one two-lane road to the concert area," said Lt. Mickey Nigert, who supervised the Irwindale officers at the event. "Everyone had to squeeze through that one road."

Henry Roman, senior assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department, acknowledged that concert organizers and parks officials had underestimated the traffic situation.

"We thought in our planning for the event that we had solved the traffic problem, but obviously we didn't," Roman said. "I don't know what the solution is at this point, but we'll definitely be working on that before we do another event."

Park officials said they will probably consult a traffic engineer and consider adding one or two more roads before staging other large concerts at the site. In addition, officials said future events on weekdays are unlikely.

The unexpected traffic problems aside, park officials said the Lollapalooza concert went smoothly and set a good precedent for future concerts at the Santa Fe Dam.

"I think the parking people, the security people, the cleanup people did an excellent job," said Evans. "If we can get a few annual events, and we get good at the mechanics of doing this, we're looking at a lucrative revenue maker."

No other events have been scheduled at the park, but the county has already received a proposal for a country-western concert in 1994.

Park officials said they would consider events on a case-by-case basis. "Our first concern is with public safety. We don't want any hard-core stuff that would attract a dangerous crowd," Evans said.

The Santa Fe Dam property is owned by the federal government and leased to Los Angeles County. It costs about $1.6 million annually to operate the park.

"We were very happy with the facility, especially the open park setting," said Rick Van Santen, an official with Golden Voice Productions, the promoters of Lollapalooza. He said the festival would probably ask to return to the spot next year.

About 30,000 tickets were sold for each day of the show, but park officials estimated that an additional 10,000 to 20,000 fans were able to sneak into the park area.

Police reported several cases of stolen cars and minor vandalism, and nearly a dozen arrests on drug-related charges, but there were no serious incidents of violence.

Evans said the park was in relatively good condition. There were a few broken tree limbs and some damage to the sprinkler system, but the concert promoters have agreed to pay all repair costs, he said.

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