ROCKINGHAM — The upcoming Epicenter music festival will have the largest economic impact of any event ever held in Richmond County, according to County Manager Bryan Land.
During his report to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Land said attendance is “expected to eclipse 90 to 100,000 attendees and the economic impact will be larger than any NASCAR event we have ever hosted.”
“I realize folks would love to have NASCAR back, but NASCAR isn’t what it was back in the ‘90s … They left us, so we’ve got to head in a different direction,” he said.
Land and Economic Developer Martie Butler were reviewing updated numbers from previous festivals and said the economic impact on the region would be nearly $40 million.
“That’s earth-shattering,” he said. “We didn’t have two NASCAR events that equaled that.”
Epicenter is a three-day music festival put on by Danny Wimmer Presents scheduled for May 10-12 and was announced last Wednesday as a replacement for Carolina Rebellion in early May. The former festival had made its home the past five years at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway but was held at Rockingham Speedway in 2012.
“The creation of the ‘epicenter of rock n’ roll’ in the heart of North Carolina gives us the ability to expand on the festival experience,” Wimmer said in a statement, “with enhanced camping amenities, nighttime entertainment with no curfew and expanded food and beverage offerings, all highlighted by a massive music lineup covering the spectrum of rock, metal and alternative rock music.
“There’s always a next level to strive for,” Wimmer concluded, “and after eight great years of Carolina Rebellion, Epicenter is that next level.”
Although the festival has an image of the speedway in its poster, it will actually be held across the street at Rockingham Dragway.
According to a press release issued Wednesday, Dragway owner Steve Earwood confirmed a 10-year deal “to utilize land adjacent to the drag strip as the focal point of the festival” and the speedway grounds will be used for parking and camping.
The combination of the the speedway, drag strip and private land is being referred to as Rockingham Festival Grounds.
“Based on our past experience, this should provide an enormous economic boost for Richmond County and the surrounding area,” Earwood said in a statement. “It’s a major coup for our area insomuch as other venues, including some in South Carolina, were pushing very hard for the festival.”
News of the festival being coming to the area was recently featured in Billboard Magazine.
“This is huge exposure for Richmond County,” Land said. “We were battling with multiple states and numerous sites within many states, even within the boundaries of North Carolina for this festival.”
Board Chairman Kenneth Robinette said the event would not have been possible without the work— and patience— Land put into making it happen, including coordinating with various state agencies and regional hotels (extending into South Carolina) for the 8,000 rooms needed.
“This a big deal, this a big economic boost for this whole region and this part of North Carolina,” Robinette said.
Land said the county has already received calls, including half a dozen while he was in a meeting earlier in the day, for bookings.
Although the initial lineup will not be announced until 9 a.m. Dec. 10, promoters have posted teaser videos giving clues to which bands will be performing.
So far, those videos have promoted progressive metal band Tool, nu metal group Korn and heavy metal powerhouse Judas Priest.
The Richmond Observer asked readers which bands they would like to see at the festival and replies included Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot, Bad Wolves, Ghost, Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Anthrax, Megadeath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company and Aerosmith.
Tickets for the festival go on sale Dec. 14.