Dancing with the Old Gray Lady: Councilor Parker aims to bring music festivals to Legion Field

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons

Legion Field is more than a sporting venue. It’s a culturally rich, iconic symbol of Birmingham and the people who call the Magic City home.

On May 25, Legion Field will be the site of the 2019 Funk Fest, a music and entertainment festival that will bring thousands of people to sing and dance with the “Old Gray Lady.”

Council President Pro Tem William Parker said he is looking forward to the festivities this year, but he has his eye on what the future of music festivals at Legion Field could look like. His vision is to market Legion Field as a primetime location for music festivals, such as Coachella, Essence Fest and The Hangout.

“We want organizers to know that Legion Field is open for business. It’s an amazing space for concerts and festivals, with plenty of room for multiple stages, vendors and everything you’d need to put on a great event,” Parker said. “By just looking at the way people come out and tailgate for the Magic City Classic, it’s easy to see something similar in terms of a music festival.”

During the Magic City Classic weekend, the grounds of Legion Field easily accommodate 100,000 people, which is slightly more than the daily attendance at Coachella.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the economic impact delivered to Palm Springs California and surrounding cities by Coachella is eye-popping.

· $704 million — amount of overall economic activity (spending by consumers and businesses) generated by Coachella and Stagecoach, according to projections by the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership and Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau

· $403 million — estimated spending in the greater Coachella Valley area

· $106 million — estimated amount of money injected into the economy of Indio alone

· $3.18 million — tax revenue for Indio generated by ticket sales, accounting for 5% of the city’s general fund

· 99,000 — per-day attendance during the six days of Coachella

· 70,000 — per-day attendance for the three days of Stagecoach

· 9,000 — estimated number of people expected to stay in Airbnb homes during the festival, double the amount from last year

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons

While landing a festival the size of Coachella may be a long-term goal, Parker said he is looking to possibly extend Funk Fest to a three-day event next year. With the absence of music festivals such as City Stages and Sloss Fest, Legion Field could serve as the perfect venue for a multiday event, according to Parker. This year’s Funk Fest, which will be headlined by Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown, Jeezy and more, is a great starting point for marketing Legion Field as a music venue.

“When you go to New Orleans for Essence Fest and see all the activity that surrounds that event, it makes you wonder why Birmingham doesn’t have something like this. We’re not only a sports tourism destination, but also we’re one of America’s most influential music cities when you look at the talent and history we have here,” Parker said. “It’s my goal to bring a music festival to Legion Field as we continue to redefine how we use one of the city’s most iconic venues.”

On Wednesday, the Birmingham Park Board will be voting on an extension for Funk Fest through 2022. Part of that plan includes reserving three days at Legion Field as opposed to one, as it is now. Parker plans on working with promoters to extend the event by two days. Wednesday’s vote will be a step in that direction.