Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Impressed with Austin; Vows to Bring Big Outdoor Festival to Toronto

There’s been much written about Toronto’s trade mission to Austin, Texas, in order to learn how a city of less than a million of people can attract $1.5 billion in revenues from music ever single year.  Hell, Austin brings in $300 million just with the two weeks of SXSW every March.

Mayor Rob Ford is impressed with what Austin has accomplished and has already vowed to bring some kind of big outdoor festival to Toronto.

Hey, I’m all for that, but it’s not like it hasn’t been tried before.  The problem isn’t with signing up talent, selling tickets or all the infrastructure that goes with such a thing.  It’s the lack of a proper venue.

As someone who has experience in attempting to stage large outdoor shows, I can tell you that doing something like this in Toronto is near impossible because there’s nowhere to go.

Toronto Islands?  Lovely, once you get there. But there are issues with getting the gear to and from the islands (boats cost extra, you see).  And let’s not even begin to talk about the long lines for the ferries for attendees.

Old Fort York?  Again, very lovely, but limited in capacity. Anything over 3,500 people and it starts to get squishy.

Downsview Park?  In theory, it should be the perfect spot: lots of open acreage on a subway line more-or-less smack-dab in the centre of the GTA.  The problem?  It’s administered by three levels of government and a private aircraft manufacturer.  Good luck with all the red tape and competing interests.

Somewhere in the city’s environs?  Hey, if you know of a big open field that meets all the criteria of being able to hold a music festival with 75,000 fans, lemme know.  I’m all ears.

More on the Austin trip here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Impressed with Austin; Vows to Bring Big Outdoor Festival to Toronto

  • October 5, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I saw footage of The Offspring playing at a venue in Toronto called Echo Beach. There seemed to be an awful lot of people there. Information I gathered indicates the venue has a capacity of 4,000 people. Molson Park of course isn't in Toronto, and was a huge place for festivals. We used to go on the Canada Day weekends to see all kinds of bands. I think there's an outlet mall there now. Canada's Wonderland used to have concerts in the park at Kingswood, which they don't use for music anymore. Having worked there years ago mowing lawns, I can say they have a ton of unused space, but again, it's not in Toronto. Edgefest is held at Downsview Park, the old Downsview Airforce Base. The Toronto Sun reported a crowd of 20,000 at the Edgefest concert, August 2013. Is there ay reason Downsview Park can't be used?

  • October 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    In my view, Mosport Speedway in Bowmanville may be the closest we've had to a major outdoor concert venue (bigger than Molson Park, camping facilities etc.). They held Edenfest there back in 1996. Unfortunately it isn't within the city. Downsview is probably as close as we get.

    PS – to Heidi's comment – apart from Downsview, the places you mention are waaaaay too small for the type of concert being discussed.

  • October 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I am aware most of the venues I mentioned are too small for this type of concert, never been to Echo Beach so I don't know the capacity, but I just remembered the old stadium at the CNE. Whatever happened to that place? We used to go to concerts every summer when the CNE was open. I not saying it's big enough, just reminiscing, a Supertramp concert in the early 80's, nice memories, met a lot of fun people, one guy came from as far away as Texas. (I brought him home with me 🙂


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