Madison Square Garden Rushing Into The Festival Market Just In Time For The Bubble To Pop

noah | July 7, 2008 3:30 am

Realizing that two years after a market swells to capacity is the prime time to rush into it, Madison Square Garden Entertainment is looking to buy some 910 acres of New York dairy farmland in order to stage “an annual world-class, three-day music festival” with add-ons like an on-site dance club and Internet cafe beginning in 2010. Sure, the economy is tanking, gas prices are making daily commutes a wallet-busting venture, and ticket sales at the festivals MSG is planning on modeling its new venture on, like Coachella and Bonnaroo, have slowed a bit. But isn’t destroying a bunch of farmable land for the purposes of recreational profit in the earliest stages of a food crisis a fantastic idea? At the very least, it’s causing Springfield, the upstate town where the land is located, to start dividing itself along “pro” and “con” lines!

Proponents, who include the town supervisor, Thomas Armstrong, who is 81 and has had the job since 1991, say, yes, it would be three days of aggravation, but it would leave the land — already subdivided for single-family homes — open and unspoiled, bring in badly needed tax revenue and perhaps open the way for more arts-oriented business.

He was at KC’s Corner Diner, the only restaurant left in town, with the owner, Bruce Hargrove, the other day. Both saw it as a no-brainer. Mr. Hargrove said that since he opened 18 years ago, 45 businesses in town have closed, and school enrollment has tumbled. The town has half as many people as it had a century ago.

“Look out there,” he said, pointing to Route 20, the major east-west artery that runs through the town. “It’s July 3, and you could put a volleyball net up and play in the middle of the road. We’re dying here. Something needs to change.”

Opponents say the concert would bring too much noise and traffic and take prime agricultural land out of production for little gain.

“We came here for peace and quiet; this is not peace and quiet,” said Robert H. Boyle, founder of the Riverkeeper environmental group, who moved to the town six years ago. “It’s not just three days when you add the time setting it up and taking it down, and those three days could be very turbulent, to say the least. You look at the history of music festivals; they’re not gatherings of Eagle Scouts.”

Rosemarie Harrison, who is circulating petitions against the festival (there is also a petition in support), said that residents were against it, but she feared that elected officials would approve it anyway. “People are tearing the petitions out of my hand to sign it,” she said. “It would help a few people and ruin everyone else’s lives. It’s already dividing the town. It’s not even here, and it’s already ruining the town.”

Maybe MSG will broadcast the town hall meetings on Fuse! That would at least be better than another rerun of Rad Girls.

(Oh, and don’t mind the story’s excessively dopey Simpsons referencing. I personally was surprised that the author didn’t take a moment to run down every band that’s appeared on the show, but maybe that was cut by his editor.)

If Music Be the Food of Fortune [NYT]