Goldenvoice, Indio expect to make deal

12:18 AM, Aug 10, 2012

Goldenvoice and Indio officials say they're closing in on a deal that would keep the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in Indio for the long term.

The new optimism comes after weeks of speculation that the mega events might move out of town.

Goldenvoice President Paul Tollett told The Desert Sun in an email this week, “We will be filing an application for a long-term permit in the next few weeks.”

For years, Goldenvoice has sought a permit from Indio that would allow them to produce the events at the Empire Polo Club on a long-term basis.

Goldenvoice only received one-year permits in the first 12 years of Coachella's existence. During that time, the industry publication Pollstar named it the best outdoor music in North America nine times.

Indio granted Goldenvoice a two-year permit to produce the 2012 and 2013 festivals, and Coachella broke attendance records with two sold-out weekends in April.

But tension flared again in June when City Councilman Sam Torres led a charge to place a measure on the November ballot that would tax major events such as Coachella and Stagecoach. He withdrew his proposal after Goldenvoice threatened to take its festivals out of Indio after 2013.

The Indio City Council last month expressed a desire to negotiate a long-term contract, but said the next move was up to Goldenvoice.

“Do I feel we'll get a long-term contract? Yes I do,” Mayor Glenn Miller said at the July 18 council meeting. “What the long-term deal looks like, I don't know.”

Tollett acknowledged that Goldenvoice has “spent money on options for new venues.”

Yann Debonne, managing partner of the limited liability company Jackson 62, said Goldenvoice officials approached him in 2008 about leasing his company's 480 acres on Avenue 62 between Van Buren and Jackson streets in unincorporated county land. He said negotiations fell through in 2009 because Goldenvoice wanted a long-term deal and “I didn't want to lock that in for 25 years.”

Empire Polo Club owner Alex Haagen III, who said he has a partnership with Goldenvoice to develop a festival venue wherever Goldenvoice goes, said he was aware that the promoters had “looked at” 600 acres in that county area. But he advocated keeping the festivals at Empire and expanding west to the Eldorado Polo Club and surrounding properties.

Goldenvoice entered into an escrow to purchase 280 acres, including Eldorado, before the 2012 festivals. But Eldorado's ownership by 22 individuals and their desire to keep it as an active polo club presented challenges for Goldenvoice.

Goldenvoice Vice President Skip Paige said in a June text message to Torres, which Torres forwarded to The Desert Sun, that the escrow was “dead.”

Haagen, however, said it isn't dead and Indio city officials said this week Goldenvoice is working on an environmental impact report. Such reports usually identify the potential for traffic, noise and dust during construction.

Goldenvoice sold more than 160,000 three-day passes to its two Coachella weekends and more than 50,000 three-day passes to Stagecoach in April. Tollett said in early July that Coachella could have sold 300,000 passes and Stagecoach could have sold 80,000 without space restrictions.

Neither Tollett nor Martinez would discuss the status of the EIR or what might be included in it.

Councilman Mike Wilson said Goldenvoice would need an EIR to build or expand to accommodate its potential for growth.

“One of the things they are wanting to find out through the EIR is what capacity do they have to expand any more for more people,” Wilson said.

“My understanding is it's still moving forward. (Goldenvoice is) doing their due diligence and then the City Council will bless it and certify it or not.”

Martinez said he and his staff have had positive conversations with Goldenvoice officials and they might want to tweak the contract proposal to “make sure it's in line with what had been discussed by both parties.”

Martinez said he's not surprised by Tollett's announcement that Goldenvoice will be filing an application for a long-term permit in the next few weeks.

“That is the impression we've had all along,” he said.

“At some point we will hammer this deal out and it will benefit ... the city of Indio and frankly the whole Coachella Valley.”