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Promoters Consider Moving Coachella Festival to New Location, Canceling 2014 Event

Promoter unhappy with proposed tax that would increase ticket prices

Coachella
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
July 3, 2012 5:00 PM ET

California-based promotions company Goldenvoice is threatening to move one of its biggest events, the annual Coachella festival, out of Indio if the city goes through with a proposed admissions tax, according to the Desert Sun.

The report comes after the newspaper obtained a series of text messages in which Goldenvoice vice president Skip Paige told an Indio official about the plans to move Coachella and also its country music festival, Stagecoach, from the city.

"If the tax initiative of putting $4 million to $6 million onto Coachella gets on the ballot,” Goldenvoice president Paul Tollett told the Sun, “we're going to take off [in] 2014; 2015 we'll be at a new facility outside of Indio.”

The 5- to 10-percent tax on admissions for events of more than 2,500 people was initially proposed by City Councilman Sam Torres, who believes that the cost would add an average of $18 to each ticket. Torres belives this would generate $4 million for Indio, which recently had to cut almost $4 million from its budget through layoffs and leaves of absence. Tollett, however, estimated that the tax would make tickets approximately $36 more expensive, a cost he did not want to make festivalgoers pay; the tax, then, would cost Goldenvoice an extra $4 to $6 million.

After his initial measure was turned down by the City Council, Torres is now leading a petition drive to get the measure on the ballot in November. Approximately 2,700 Indio residents would have to sign the petition for it to go forward.

It was Torres who forwarded the texts that Paige sent him to the Desert Sun. The texts indicated that Goldenvoice was already planning on moving the two festivals out of Indio. One read, "You know were moving right? All this is a game. Why in the world would we stay where we are not wanted." [SIC]

While Tollett said he couldn't respond to the texts because he had not seen them, he noted that some excerpts – like one about how Goldenvoice decided to move two years ago – were misleading. He did acknowledge that Goldenvoice had attempted to buy the Eldorado Polo Club just down the road from the current site of the Empire Polo Club, not the Empire Polo Club as Paige's text read.

"We've spent money on options for new venues," Tollett told the Desert Sun. "I regret that, but I had to. There's too much uncertainty. In any other place, this festival would have had a long-term deal. We have it with the venues. With the city, it's been this year-to-year thing.”

While Paige's texts indicate that Goldenvoice hasn't had any meetings with Indio city officials to discuss a long-term deal "because there isn't one," Indio mayor Glenn Miller said otherwise. City Manager Dan Martinez added that negotiations won't be able to begin until the city knows what will happen with the tax proposal as well as Goldenvoice's possible purchase of Eldorado.

While both Tollett and Empire owner Alex Haagen III say they want to keep the festivals where they are, they can't ignore the effects that Torres' proposed measure would have. Before any decisions are made, they'll have to see how many signatures Torres' petition gets.

“Sam, his slogan should be, ‘I want to turn the city of festivals into the city of festival' — the Tamale Festival, which is free," said Tollett. "That's what he's doing. That's his legacy.”

While Coachella 2014 remains uncertain, dates for next year's festival have already been set for April 12th-14th and April 19th-21st. 

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