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Dave Matthews Band Caravan drew 72,000 fans to Atlantic City's Bader Field, generated $5 million in spending, reports show

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Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyle walks on top of the crowd in a giant inflated bubble, Friday, June 24 at the Dave Matthews Band Caravan at Bader Field in Atlantic City.

ATLANTIC CITY — Last summer’s Dave Matthews Band Caravan stop at Bader Field drew more than 72,000 music fans and generated nearly $5 million in ticket sales, box office reports released Thursday show.

Cumulative ticket sales closely match crowd estimates made by police during the three-day music festival, which Atlantic City government and business leaders hoped would demonstrate Bader Field could host large-scale events. It worked well enough that Caravan promoter Starr Hill Presents wants to return for four weekends during the coming summer, the company’s director of venue management, Ken MacDonald, said Thursday.

“I can’t say it was profitable, because it wasn’t,” MacDonald said of the 2011 event. “But ... every show is going to do different business. We learned a lot about Atlantic City and how to do things better as far as how to handle, manage traffic, the water, the electric and all the things that go into producing the event. We also introduced people to Bader Field, and so we think we have a better shot going forward of being more successful.”

City Council agreed Dec. 4 to reserve the 143-acre former municipal airport for two weekends in June for the company, but balked it Dec. 21 to booking another two weekends in September due mainly to concerns about how the ticket proceeds would be split. Council meets Jan. 18 and will reconsider the September dates and the contract, which would apply to all Starr Hill events during summer 2012.

MacDonald said Starr Hill has so far negotiated with Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who did not return calls for comment Thursday.

“I think the agreement ... is fair,” MacDonald said from his office in Portsmouth, Va. “I don’t know they had time to fully review it, and I’m doing my best to touch base with anyone with questions and address those concerns. I think once everyone involved in approving the agreement is familiar with the details of it, they’re going to approve it.”

Some councilmen want the city to get $1 for every person in attendance per day instead of only for those above a 20,000 daily threshold proposed by Starr Hill. That money would be in addition to the promoter’s payment to the city, in part to defray police overtime and other costs: $80,000 daily for each two- or three-day concert, which would amount to 20 percent more than the $200,000 paid for the three-day event in 2011.

“We’re not opposed to Starr Hill coming to Atlantic City or generating revenue for the businesses in Atlantic City,” said Councilman Frank Gilliam. “The major concern that I — and the rest of City Council — had was more or less getting more than what was offered. I believe that once we sit down, we can come up with more agreeable terms and move forward in a positive direction.”

MacDonald said the $80,000 figure quoted aloud by councilmen during their meeting Dec. 21 does not accurately represent the terms of the proposed contract, which he said likely stemmed from them not having had adequate time to review the agreement.

The document will not be publicly available until after it is finalized and signed.

Gilliam said Thursday that further review had not changed his understanding of the terms.

Starr Hill is a subsidiary of Red Light Management, which runs annual four-day camping music festival Bonnaroo on a 700-acre compound in Manchester, Tenn. Red Light also manages the band Phish, which is touring this summer.

Starr Hill representatives will not say whether Phish will headline any of the upcoming Bader Field concerts, nor will they release other details, but they have confirmed that the Dave Matthew Band will not return.

“The four events we’re talking about this year are all different, and they’ll appeal to different audiences,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said fewer people attended last summer’s Caravan stop in Atlantic City than in Chicago. He declined to provide the number of tickets sold in Chicago, which he also said was the only stop comparable to Atlantic City.

One week after the end of the tour, Starr Hill gave a ticket manifest, or box office report, to Atlantic City officials for the event June 24 to 26, as per their contract. Subsequent requests for the report by The Press of Atlantic City were delayed because city officials said they could not find the documents.

Box office data

Ticket sales for the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, June 24 to 26, 2011, in Atlantic City


General admission

3-day                 19,825      $3,863,600

1-day Friday       1,582        $134,470

1-day Saturday  6,092         $517,820

1-day Sunday     2,553         $217,005

Total general admission tickets paid      30,052      $4,732,895

Total attendance 69,702

VIP packages

3-day               638          $124,410

1-day Friday    121           $18,285

1-day VIP Saturday  401     $56,835

1-day VIP Sunday    157     $23,220

Total VIP packages paid   1,317    $222,750

Total VIP attendance 2,593

Total tickets paid     31,369        $4,955,645

Total attendance  72,295

If you go

Who: Atlantic City Council

What: Vote on Starr Hill Presents contract

Where: Council Chambers, second floor of City Hall, 1301 Bacharach Blvd.

When: 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18

Why: Contract sets terms for summer 2012 events Starr Hill wants to run at Bader Field. Last year’s Dave Matthews Band Caravan tour stop there drew more than 72,000 people during three days and generated nearly $5 million in ticket sales.


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