These stupid events that raise revenue for the City of Tempe are a major problem for the rest of us Tempe Citizens who don't get a cut of the money. They cause huge traffic jams, disrupt bus service so it is impossible to comute between Tempe and Scottsdale, and cause huge parking jams in the downtown area.

Tempe lake park schedule flooded By Garin Groff, Tribune January 24, 2006

Tempe has transformed its Town Lake from a deserted no-mans land into one of Arizonas most popular tourist attractions, luring more than 2 million people a year.

The lake is so popular that Tempe is now turning away events from Beach Park, as its calendar is already full for the rest of the year.

This is pretty much a first, said Travis Dray, the parks event coordinator. Normally, weve had some holes we could fill, but everybody and then some wants to book something at this park.

The lakes popularity is a source of pride and at least a little bit of contention. Once an event is booked, the city gives its organizer first dibs at the date the following year. That means the tiniest of events can override an event that would potentially bring 100,000 visitors, national exposure and tons of cash to downtown merchants.

In one case, an event that drew a few hundred people and lasted just a few hours prevented Orange County Choppers from booking a weekend motorcycle event that likely would have drawn tens of thousands.

That approach has to change, said Rod Keeling, executive director of the Downtown Tempe Community.

The city is going to have to sit down and talk about how we prioritize the park, Keeling said. Theres got to be a happy medium there somewhere, where the events are maximized for their economic benefit but we also leave space for the community events.

Competing events werent a concern when the park opened in late 1999. Tempe had filled the lake two years before and had yet to make many improvements around the water.

The city sponsored a concert series to remind people of the then-new park and lake, which cost $150 million to build. Those early events drew the attention of local and national event organizers.

Its the top facility in the Valley, no ifs, ands or buts, said Ken Koziol, senior vice president of Scottsdale-based Entertainment Solutions.

Koziol also calls for a change in policy, saying the city shouldnt turn away major events only because somebody else claimed the date years ago. Koziol does about 15 events a year at the park, including the Fiesta Bowl Block Party and the Tempe Music Festival.

Koziol wants to turn the Tempe Music Festival into the type of nationally known event that most major cities have. But that cant happen if small events fill the schedule or if the city allows too many similar concert series.

He also acknowledges smaller events need some protection and that the city needs to have some unscheduled time at the park so visitors can enjoy a quiet day on the lakefront.

There needs to be some fair and equitable review of this park, Koziol said.

Tempe City Council members Barb Carter and Hut Hutson said theyve just started to research the issue through a committee they sit on. They expect the rest of the council will review scheduling in a couple months.

I dont think we need to be worried about quantity, Carter said. We need to worry about quality.

The city sometimes has two or more events at once but it often cant accommodate multiple events because of the demand on city staff.

That situation could improve in the next few years as Tempe builds more parks along the lake that could handle more events.

Any new policy is sure to invite criticism, Keeling said, because somebody will lose out. He doesnt have a specific vision, but said the city should still allow quiet days at the park while booking events that earn Tempe national exposure and economic development.

The flip side of that is this is a problem that most people would like to have, Keeling said. This is a problem of success. This is not a problem of failure.

Contact Garin Groff by email, or phone (480) 898-6554

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