New contract could keep Riverfest in downtown Little Rock for the next 25 years while raising more money to make improvements in Riverfront Park.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Little Rock's biggest music festival closed a deal with the city Tuesday that will keep the festival in the heart of downtown for years to come. Riverfest has traditionally had to apply for a permit every year in order to secure its place in Riverfront Park for Memorial Day weekend. The new deal not only makes sure Riverfest will stay in the park for the foreseeable future, but also should bring a lot more money into the park for improvements.

"This is a win-win for both Riverfest and the city of Little Rock," said Little Rock Assistant City Manager Bryan Day. "When it started it was a free festival, then it went to a dollar a day and then it was like five dollars and, of course, the costs of doing business got more and more each year."

Little Rock's Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the contract that could keep Riverfest in Riverfront Park through the year 2039. The deal, a five-year lease with four separate five-year renewal options, should also more than double the amount of money the city gets from the festival.

"Riverfest was created for the sole purpose of improving Riverfront Park," said Day. "That is their purpose, that was their original mission and so they've always given money to the city, this contract just will increase that amount and it also earmarks that money to stay in Riverfront Park, which is what Riverfest wanted to see."

Day says Riverfest has given around $25,000 dollars to the city each of the last few years. He hopes the new deal will bring in between $70,000-$80,000 per year, all of which is earmarked specifically to go back into the park.

"It's a huge economic impact to this community as a whole," added Day. "This new contract gives direct money to the Parks Department to make those improvements that the park desperately needs… They can add things for additional playgrounds, picnic areas, trees, vegetation, any number of things that can continue to make the park a better place."

"It's been 6 or 7 years through this process and now we have a 25 year agreement with the city of Little Rock and so we're very thrilled to be here and start another long-term partnership with the city," said Riverfest Executive Director DeAnna Korte. According to Korte, with one dollar from every ticket now going directly into Riverfront Park, the festival can do even more to make the park a better place. Not only that, but she says they will not pass those extra costs along to festival goers.

"Just knowing that we've got our home in Riverfront Park is secure is extremely important," said Korte. "The fact that we'll be able to give back rain or shine every single year is a big thing, we've given back a million dollars over our 37-year history so this just ensures that, if Mother Nature wields us a bad hand, that we're still able to give some funds back to the city."

"We're not going to pass the dollar off to the festival goers, we're going to absorb the cost of that," added Korte. "Our goal is to put on a great event for the community, to make it as affordable as we can, I mean, I think we do a great job at that. $20 for a 3-day festival like we put on is a great bargain."

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