‘If they tell you 20,000 people are coming to this event, plan on 30,000′: West Chester prepares for large festival

Credit: Chris Pizzello

Credit: Chris Pizzello

West Chester Twp. officials estimate it will cost nearly $300,000 in safety services to handle crowds that will descend this summer for the Voices of America Country Music Festival.

The Voices of America Country Music Festival will be staged Aug. 11-13 on the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting and Voice of America MetroParks grounds and officials are expecting thousands of event-goers. Headliners include Dan + Shay, Old Dominion, Chris Young and Alabama.

The township trustees are preparing now for the flood of visitors.

“I’m really hoping that this event becomes and annual event,” Trustee Mark Welch said. “From what I know about the cost of safety services, that’s a very, very big expense and I just want to make sure this event is sustainable as we go forward.”

Preliminary cost estimates to handle event, based on 30,000 people per day are $106,000 for fire and EMS and $180,000 for police security and traffic control. Police Chief Joel Herzog said they will pull in resources from other jurisdictions and the entire cost will be paid for by the event organizer Further Concepts and Investors.

The estimates are preliminary because exact logistics for the event are still being formalized. Herzog said they have plenty of experience dealing with crowds and they take into account things like whether alcohol will be consumed and other variables.

“It really depends on the type of event, the type of crowd you’re going to have and whether you have seating and all that,” Herzog said. “All that plays into factoring what you need and what the standard is. Certain events, our food truck rally, that creates a lot of people but it’s historically a calmer event, a different crowd.”

Fire Chief Rick Prinz said they are staffing based on the model Myrtle Beach uses because they have an event that is almost identical to this one. They’ve been talking to safety services professionals in South Carolina and they’ve said “if they tell you 20,000 people are coming to this event, plan on 30,000 so our model right now is based on a worst case scenario.”

Barb Wilson, director of public information and engagement, said the township also charges events like the Food Truck Rally, Shamrock Shuffle and St. John’s Festival for safety services, but she didn’t have cost amounts.

Tracy Kocher, interim president and CEO for Travel Butler County, said it is commonplace for the event to pay for these services.

The chiefs said their costs will be adjusted commensurate with the crowds. Tyler Wogenstahl, chief executive officer at Further Concepts and Investors, said he didn’t want to comment on the cost for the township to handle the event because he is still negotiating with them.

The trustees were also wondering about the economic impact of the concert weekend.

“The way I look at it is Butler County’s benefitting, Mason’s benefitting, Warren County’s benefitting,” Welch said. “Because if there’s 25,000 people that come to West Chester for three or four days every hotel room is going to be booked, every restaurant is going to be busy and people are going to be shopping and looking at other things.”

Wogenstahl said to-date they have people coming in from 23 different states and three different countries, “I think the potential economic development for the county is $40 million, that’s hotels, restaurants, we plan on bringing in 100,000 people to the county over that week.”

Voice of America Museum Executive Director Jack Dominic told the Journal-News, “this is going to be a multi-million dollar thing but it’s not a multi-million dollar thing for us, I wish it was.”

He said there are about 80-plus acres on the site owned by the museum, MetroParks and the township and he has been told they could hold 50,000 to 60,000 people. The museum will not be open during the event but the police will use it as a command post.

“Our role is essentially to provide the space, we’re supportive and we will receive a modest amount of funds from the concert,” Dominic said and added jokingly “but overall it is a rounding error in their budget.”

Kocher said this event will be very important for county tourism.

“We’re incredibly excited to host it, anytime you have something of that scale within our community it certainly shines a spotlight on all the great amenities and things that we have to offer here,” Kocher said.

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