Historic City News reported last week on the profit and loss posted by the City of St Augustine during the Gentlemen of the Road stopover featuring Mumford and Sons, from figures supplied by the City Comptroller, Mark Litzinger.
Department heads have been debriefed, emergency medical and public safety reports have been compiled, and today, in published reports, City Manager John Regan reveals his views of what was done right and what could have been done better.
“We’re a lot smarter as an institution” Regan said in an interview with Jim Sutton, now that the event is over. Not surprising, really, since the city has never attempted to put tens of thousands of people in one place at one time. Many residents of the city, especially those living close to Francis Field, were very uncomfortable with the gamble.
Of course the sky didn’t fall and the neighbors were not trampled; Regan recalled that at one point, law enforcement at the event was only minutes away from closing the concert because of storms in the area. That never became necessary.
That said, Regan, the city’s biggest cheerleader and largely responsible for the entertainment wager, admits to Sutton that, without the $50,000 consulting fee paid to the county, the city would have been in trouble. “It’s safe to say that the best investment made by the city was hiring St Augustine Amphitheatre general manager Ryan Murphy and his crew from St Johns County for technical expertise that no one but they could have provided.”
Regan’s confidence is up — he feels that more things went right than went wrong; and, since they were expecting losses in the $56,000 range, he’ll take the $7,000 loss and call it a success.
One of the often voiced criticisms of the plan was that the concert really had no connection to St Augustine. If there were going to be financial losses and inconvenienced residents, many said that at least there should be some measurable residual value and the venture should have been related to St Augustine’s history. Some used the example of El Galeon as a better investment of the city’s capital, because it interpreted an authentic part of our maritime heritage.
Regan says in the interview that, in the future, “we can pursue or plan events that fit the strategy of the city.” He is clear about his vision of future events. “We have an amazing venue here. Few cities can touch it. But, it may not be rock concerts the city looks at down the road.”
The fact that Regan acknowledges future events “would more likely be cultural events, perhaps in line with the 450th celebration coming up,” proves that he did learn at least one important lesson.
“The Mumford experience has given the city some experience and confidence,” Regan said. “It’s positioned to take advantage of only the smartest events designed to complement our history, heritage or general aspirations.”
One thing that did not work as planned, was the forecast of great economic impact on the downtown business community. It became clear soon after the event that lodging and bars did well, merchants did not. Transportation after the event moved concertgoers out of the area too fast, leaving many merchants overstocked for expected windfalls that never materialized. The city over-expected the role of the parking garage. Regan says few concert-goers paid the $30 a day fee. It barely played a supporting role, in reality.
Satellite parking and satellite entertainment worked well. “Protecting the neighborhoods worked better than expected, but it was costly,” Regan said. Police spokesman Mark Samson told Historic City News that one arrest occurred Friday night and police evicted a rowdy guest Saturday night. The Sheriff’s Unified Command Center worked better than expected. Dehydration was the biggest medical issue. Rescue personnel saw about 250 concert-goers and several more were taken to the hospital — none with serious injuries.