Sep 28, 2021 - Politics
Scoop: ACL rents Austin's Zilker Park for $100K
A crowd takes in the ACL Music Festival.
A general view of the crowd during the 2018 Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park. Photo: Rick Kern/WireImage

Austin City Limits Music Festival is paying Austin $103,530 to shut Zilker Park to the public for at least 27 days, per the 2021 contract with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department that Axios obtained through an open records request.

The big picture: The park fees are a fraction of the overall payouts that festival organizer C3 Presents makes to the city, but it puts a price on the interruption at one of our most popular spots for dog walkers and frisbee players.

  • The city closed the sprawling park on Sept. 20, and it won’t reopen until Oct. 17 at the earliest.

By the numbers: The last time ACL Fest was mounted in 2019, C3 paid Austin $2.4 million, including $1.45 million in ticket fees and reimbursements for costs related to police, fire, EMS and transportation — as well as the park rental fees.

  • A percentage of ACL Fest ticket sales is directed to the Austin Parks Foundation, which uses the money to improve citywide public parks and trails. In 2019, the parks foundation took in $6 million. Over the last 15 years, the donation related to ACL Fest has totaled more than $41 million.
  • Organizers have pegged the festival’s wider economic impact — from hotel bookings to chicken cone consumption — at more than $250 million annually.

What’s next: The city is chewing on future development of the park and will unveil a final plan next April.

  • "I wish ACL would be relocated," reads one of the comments in a city-commissioned survey taken earlier this year. "It cuts off access to the park for the local community during a beautiful season to be there and is a burden on the neighbors. I’d like to see the city prioritize its citizens/park-goers over corporate events."
  • Several commenters recommended the festival be moved to the Circuit of the Americas racetrack in southeast Austin.

Yes, but: More Austinites are in favor of keeping ACL Fest at Zilker than forcing it out to a site like the racetrack, per a summer survey by Towers.net, which tracks the city’s real estate market.

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