The number of unknowns surrounding the approaching BottleRock music festival were front and center Thursday afternoon when the Napa Valley Expo Board of Directors received a briefing.

Expo CEO Joe Anderson said he is still waiting to see site layout and evacuation plans, proof of insurance and other logistical documents the fairgrounds and state require before the event can occur.

BottleRock, which could bring some 35,000 people to the Expo on May 9-12, and a smaller number on the 8th, is expected to be the largest special event in Napa history.

“The process of this has been kind of painful because (the BottleRock promoters are) not as organized as we hoped they would be,” Anderson told the board.

In an interview Tuesday, BottleRock co-founder Gabriel Meyers said the best people in the music festival business have been hired and that the event will be a success.

With the event about five weeks away, Anderson said he has yet to see finalized plans. The site layout and evacuation plans are due Friday so the Expo can send them to the state fire marshal for approval. After they’re approved, nothing major can change, he said.

When first approached in October about BottleRock, Anderson said the Expo was to be the site of one or two small concerts, while other venues in Napa, possibly the Uptown  Theatre and Opera House, would host other acts. In December, when the board of directors approved the event, it was to be a three-day festival.

Now, BottleRock is to run Thursday through Sunday, with a kickoff concert by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on Wednesday night.

“We have to say the event is what the event is so we can start planning,” Anderson said. “We’re all running against deadlines.”

With the expansion of BottleRock to five days, Napa Valley Expo stands to make at least $115,000, but likely more. The original contract was $80,000 for facility rental, but that has increased because of the two additional concert days.

The Expo will also charge $4,000 per day for BottleRock setup beyond the two days in the December contract. Anderson said that date keeps changing, but last he heard, organizers wanted access to the Expo on May 1, so an additional $20,000 could be on its way to the fairgrounds.

During BottleRock, Anderson said it will be an “all hands on deck” situation for Expo staff, though the event itself will be run by BottleRock employees, contractors and volunteers.

“We have everything to lose in this,” he said. “We don’t know what we don’t know yet.”

Organizers requested to keep on-Expo activities going as late as 1 a.m., but Anderson and the board chose to hold the event to the standard 10 p.m. close for outdoor events, midnight for those held inside.

BottleRock is being held on state property outside the city of Napa’s jurisdiction, but city staff and public safety officials have been working with Anderson and BottleRock promoters to help ensure the event runs smoothly, police Capt. Steve Potter told the board.

Organizers are requesting to close Third Street in front of the Expo and Burnell Street to the west of the fairgrounds, both of which require city approval. The requested nighttime closure of Silverado Trail, a state highway, is up to the state.

“With (Anderson’s) help and the open communication, we’ve been able to sort through a lot of things and figure out what’s going on,” Potter said.

The security plans are still being worked out, but Potter anticipates BottleRock will require 90 officers and dispatchers from the Napa Police Department, Napa County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol. Some of those officers will facilitate traffic control, possibly as far away as Jameson Canyon/Highway 12. Others will conduct extra patrols in surrounding neighborhoods, and the remainder will police the event.

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Anderson said more than 300 private security officers will be required.

A private company will provide first aid on site and transport will be handled by a local emergency medical services company. A fire engine and an ambulance will be stationed at the former JV Wine & Spirits building on Silverado Trail at First Street to serve the residents of Alta Heights and east Napa during the festival.

Expo officials noted that BottleRock will end at 10 p.m. Sunday, May 12, with setup beginning at midnight for the Napa-Solano Spring Home & Garden Show, which opens the following Friday.

Anderson said it’s likely equipment for the garden show will be moved onto the Expo early that Sunday morning before the gates open at 11 a.m. so it is ready to be set up as the masses of people are being moved out of the fairgrounds Sunday night.  

Board member John Dunbar asked why neighbors around the Expo have not been contacted by BottleRock organizers about a neighborhood meeting, as was publicly promised at the City Council meeting last week. Anderson said he was told they would be contacted, possibly in the coming week.

BottleRock may offer some kind of ticket discounts to residents in the immediate vicinity, Anderson said.

Expo board president Al Wagner said he not only hopes the event will be a financial boost to the fairgrounds, which lost state funding in recent years, but hopes it will be good for the city. He said downtown restaurant owners have already relayed their excitement about the expected business boom.

“Hopefully this generates lots of money for downtown,” he said.

Potter said he is “cautiously optimistic” about BottleRock.

“At this point, it looks like the event is going one way or the other, it’s pretty far down the track,” Potter said. “Our goal as a city is to help make it the best event we can make it and mitigate as many issues in the downtown area and to surrounding neighborhoods as we can. ... Our job will be to make it as comfortable for (residents) as possible.”


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