A Grand party—unless you were green

September 11, 2014 

The Made in America concert in Grand Park caused nearly $50,000 in landscape damage.

The fans were ecstatic and the downtown boosters were declaring victory.

But as Grand Park awoke this week from its most ambitious gathering so far, it was clear that for at least one constituency, last weekend’s Made in America extravaganza was no party.

Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for the poor shrubbery.

Although cleanup crews said this week that the new park rebounded surprisingly well from the 70,000-plus fans who stomped, jumped and danced their way through the Civic Center park over Labor Day weekend, a damage assessment prepared for the county offered the sordid details.

Some 10,000 square feet of lantanas, bougainvillea, aloes, drought-tolerant grasses and other greenery—drawn from around the world to reflect the diversity of L.A.—will have to be pulled out and replaced in the aftermath of the two-day concert. In the section of the park closest to the main stage in front of City Hall, more than 1,500 separate plants, many of which had been growing into maturity for nearly two years, must be replaced.

“The trees weren’t too damaged, but a lot of the plants in the planters were completely smashed and broken,” said Sergio Hernandez, manager at ValleyCrest Cos., the Calabasas-based landscaping contractor that maintains the 12-acre park for the county.  “It almost looked like people were standing on some of the shrubs.”

The botanical casualties were estimated by ValleyCrest at about $50,000 park-wide. Hernandez said the new plants will probably take until next spring to reach the same size as they were before concertgoers arrived.

The two-day MIA concert drew roughly 70,000 people to Grand Park for its biggest event.

Live Nation, the concert promoter, is contractually obligated to cover the costs of the landscaping and other damage, including the replacement of  six thick tiles in the popular Arthur J. Memorial fountain splash pad, which were broken during the construction and tear-down of a stage.

Despite the damage, the event—curated by rapper Jay Z and headlined by such international names as Kanye West, John Mayer and Steve Aoki—won wide praise from its many boosters, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Among other things, it generated some $600,000 in fees for the county and $500,000 for the city, while showcasing Grand Park as a potential rival to the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl and other signature Southern California gathering spaces.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said his office still is assessing last weekend’s economic impact, but press interviews with downtown merchants indicated that their businesses had gotten a much-needed boost, and park planners said the event, overall, was a net benefit to the public.

“You want the park to be used, and you want it to be used for different things,” said Dawn McDivitt, who managed the development of Grand Park for the county Chief Executive Office before leaving to become chief deputy director of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County this year.

“When a big ticketed event actually rents the park, you get not only the side benefit of additional revenue for more public programs, but also the ability to reach a different type and age of audience, who will come down and enjoy other, free, events at the park later.”

But, she added, “a big, ticketed event also can be a concern because the park was established for the public, and you have to make sure that the public will still be able to enjoy it afterward.”

Grand Park officials said that the landscaping should be restored by next week, along with the completion of repairs on the fountain and a damaged irrigation line.

The preliminary assessment, prepared by ValleyCrest, estimated that $38,898 in damage had been caused near the park’s main event lawn, between Broadway and Spring Street.

Irrigation repairs and plant replacement elsewhere in the park will probably cost an additional $14,000, said Christine Frias, a program manager in the CEO’s office who coordinated the county’s Made in America involvement. She said the county was able to keep landscape costs lower by fencing planters that weren’t in the flow of foot traffic.

Grand Park Director Lucas Rivera said that, given the size and scope of the event, the impact was considerably lighter than anyone had anticipated.

“Made in America provided Angelenos with amazing entertainment and put Grand Park on the national stage,” said Grand Park Director Lucas Rivera. “With any event held in a public space, and with the amount of people who attend, there’s always going to be some wear and tear on the venue.”

The park's popular "splash pad" was damaged by the construction and tear-down of a stage.

Posted 9/4/14

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