Jan 9, 2023 - News

Gasparilla Music Festival looks to relocate from Kiley Garden

A stage at gasparilla music festival.

One of the stages on Kiley Garden, at the base of Rivergate Tower, during the last Gasparilla Music Festival. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

Gasparilla Music Festival could move to Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park this year since the city of Tampa has barred events from Kiley Garden due to issues in the plaza's foundation.

Driving the news: As Axios reported Friday, engineers discovered water seepage in the garden's planter cells that jeopardizes the structural integrity of what's essentially a two-story below-ground parking garage topped by a 4.5-acre tile and turf grid.

  • The city is prohibiting events in the space until the issue is addressed.

What they found: Walter P Moore Engineering dug holes in the turf and discovered that substandard waterproofing material was used during renovations to Kiley Garden in 2006-2008, per a report the firm submitted to the city in July 2021.

  • The firm said the plaza deck waterproofing system is now in "poor" condition with isolated elements in "failed" condition. Repairs could cost between $9 million and $11 million, not including an improved drainage system.

Yes, but: David Cox, GMF's executive director, told Creative Loafing that the festival has been working on an alternative plan to "create an amazing festival experience for 2023 in downtown Tampa.”

  • Sources confirmed to Axios that GMF planners have been eyeing Julian B. Lane, a stone's throw upriver, for months and are trying to resolve outstanding issues.
  • Tampa said its Parks and Recreation department is working with the festival to find an alternative.
  • No new dates or venues have been announced for GMF, formerly scheduled for late February. Ticket sales have also been postponed.

Flashback: Kiley Garden, which was covered by hundreds of crepe myrtles and water features when it debuted in the late 1980s, is regarded as an exceptional and pioneering landscape design by Dan Kiley, one of the world's most important postwar landscape architects.

  • Like the 33-story Rivergate Tower rising above it, the design is based upon the Fibonacci mathematical sequence, whereby beginning with the numbers zero and one, each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. The plaza's checkerboard pattern of grass and concrete panels reflects the sequence.

Of note: The structure is managed by three separate entities: Tampa's Parks and Recreation takes care of the surface, and Tampa's Parking Division handles the garage, with the Rivergate Tower sharing ownership and management of both.

What's next: The city made repairs to the structure in 2014 and 2022, but not to mitigate the seepage. An information sheet the city provided to Axios suggests the plaza could be restored to its original garden, repaired and used for events, or "redesigned for new opportunities to meet growing community needs in other ways."

  • "No concepts have been developed," the document says, "nor have budget estimates been performed."

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