ACL Fest Controversy

Zilker Park closing heralds the coming of ACL Fest

Zilker Park closing heralds the coming of ACL Fest

Austin photo: Event_Blues on the Green_Zilker Park
The economic impact of ACL ranges from $78 million to $104 million every year. But even with big money, there is criticism. Photo by The Roundabout Courtesy of The Roundabout

The City of Austin officially closed Zilker Park today, September 23, for one month in preparation for the Austin City Limits Festival. Though the festival is still almost two weeks away, the city is closing the Great Lawn until October 26, so all of us dog-running, Frisbee-throwing, picnic-munching Austinites will have to improvise in the meantime. While you wait for Zilker to reopen, head to Auditorium Shores, Butler Park and Barton Springs pool, all of which will remain open, according to KXAN.

In addition to steering clear of the lawns, plan on rerouting any commute that takes you through Zilker. Stratford Drive and Barton Springs Road will be closed intermittently during the next four weeks to make way for deliveries and construction.

ACL's local environmental impact and the strain it can put on the quality of life in Austin, including these closures, come with controversy.

ACL's local environmental impact and the strain it can put on the quality of life in Austin, including these closures, come with controversy.

In June, the mayor of Rollingwood, the small city that lies just west of Zilker Park, requested that ACL parent company C3 Presents pay $150,000 to the city for damages, traffic congestion and maintenance costs incurred by the festival. As reported in the Austin Business Journal, C3 Presents responded with a statement criticizing the mayor for going to the media with his request and pointing to the lengthy partnership between the Rollingwood Police Department and ACL.

Following the 2009 festival, C3 faced intense scrutiny when the green lawns of the park were left a muddy mess after a particularly rain-soaked festival. It took a $2.5 million dollar donation from the company and almost a year of resodding to get the park back to its pre-ACL glory.

The economic impact of ACL, however, is significant. Estimates of the amount of money ACL pumps into the local economy range from $78 million to $104 million annually — and that's based on the fest taking place just one weekend per year, as it has in the past, rather than the two it will occur this year. Watching local food vendors filling bellies (and making Mighty Cone dreams come true) in the food court and buying crafts from Austin artisans in the Art Mart certainly make it easier to dismiss the negativity.

Zilker Park will reopen to the general public on October 26.