The jazz club that revived the Napa Valley Opera House now has its sights set on creating an outdoor stage downtown – a venue the city says also would be shared with other musicians when it opens next summer.
Speaking to the City Council on Tuesday night, directors of Blue Note Napa and the city Parks and Recreation department shared more details about a festival stage the world-famous jazz venue is proposing inside the Oxbow Commons, the downtown linear park Napa opened three years ago.
The performance space would be placed on the Commons’ concrete pavilion near a railroad trestle – halfway between Soscol Avenue and McKinstry Street – as the venue for at least 15 music concerts, five free and the rest charging admission, between June and October in 2019, said Pete Hangen, Napa’s recreation supervisor.
If accepted by the city, Blue Note’s program would become the second concert series at the Commons, a wintertime flood-relief channel for the Napa River that serves as a green space in the dry seasons. The Napa Valley Jazz Getaway moved its performances to the downtown park from Yountville’s Lincoln Theater in June 2017.
Parks officials first announced their talks with Blue Note in a city staff report published last week. But on Tuesday, they revealed the concert series’ stage – which would stay in place for five months – also will be opened to other performers, thus opening up another venue in a city that has seen its musical profile grow during the last decade from the star-laden BottleRock festival to the Porchfest music crawl.
Non-Blue Note shows at the Commons’ stage would be booked separately by the city, according to Parks and Recreation director John Coates.
Financial arrangements are still being negotiated, but Napa is expected to collect a flat-rate charge from Blue Note based on the price of tickets during the paid concerts. During free performances, the city likely will claim a percentage of food and beverage revenue, Coates said after the meeting.
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Plans call for a stage about 60 feet square, equipped with a sound system and partially collapsible to lessen its bulk when not in use.
Council members appeared mostly supportive of bringing more live music into the heart of Napa, although Scott Sedgley cautioned against cutting off too much of the Oxbow park to other Napans while concerts are in progress. He also asked organizers to keep the Commons’ south walkway, a bypass of the busy First Street bridge, open whenever possible.
Blue Note Napa’s managing director Ken Tesler told Napa officials the park’s entryways are expected to stay open on performance days through about 4 to 5 p.m., when pre-concert sound checks usually begin. “Our mission has always been to respect the public spaces” where it hosts shows, he said.
Concerts are expected to run from 7 to 10 p.m. and include an opening act as well as a main event, Tesler added.
A Blue Note festival would become perhaps the highest-profile event to take place at the Oxbow Commons since its 2015 opening. City parks leaders have increasingly steered large-scale gatherings into the quarter-mile-long, 300-foot-wide greensward to reduce the number of festivals that take place in downtown streets and force traffic detours. Napa has kept up street closures for a few standbys like the Fourth of July parade and the Main Street Reunion auto show.
Another late-summer festival, Blues, Brews & BBQ, returned to First Street this August after a one-year move to the Commons in 2017 led to complaints about a lack of shade from 100-degree afternoon heat.