When you walk through the gate at the 15th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival this fall, expect to see a few changes from how Zilker Park has been set up in recent years.
That may start with the gate itself, if you have youngsters in tow. The popular “Austin Kiddie Limits” children’s area is being moved to a location along Barton Springs Road with lots of shade trees, plus a separate entrance from the festival’s main gate.
The switch is part of a handful of changes ACL Fest is implementing this year in response to feedback from festivalgoers, co-founder Charles Attal said on Wednesday. “We polled our fans, took the highest percentage of what was told to us, and put it into action,” he said.
The responses prompted moving the festival’s longtime production hub on the tree-lined southeast edge of the park to an area just off the festival grounds, between the west end of the park and MoPac. The end result is that “there will be more footprint for the patron, less for production,” Attal said.
“We get stuck in our ways sometimes doing these festivals,” he continued. “We’ve been (running production) in that area on Barton Springs for years and years. So we thought, ‘Let’s just get this off the field, and let’s make the kids area better.’”
The other big change is the relocation of the stage by the signature “Rock Island” in the center of the park to a spot on the south rim of Zilker along Barton Springs Road. That stage, which has long been sponsored by Austin Ventures, also will be enlarged, becoming equal in size to the second-tier stages that last year were sponsored by Miller Lite and HomeAway.
The Rock Island traditionally provided a picturesque natural backdrop for the more modest-sized stage. But Attal says there were problems with sound bleed from the west-end Honda and Miller Lite stages.
Another difficulty was crowd congestion between the Rock Island stage and the long lines that often stack up in the ACL Eats area, where many Austin businesses operate food booths. Moving the stage “just opens that area up,” Attal said. “People love the local restaurants, so we’re turning it into more of a hang space.”
The other six stages will stay in their previous spots, Attal said. Smaller changes in the works involve installing more water stations and new shopping options, including a place to get healthy snacks and a festival amenities store with items such as earplugs and sunscreen.
ACL Fest’s 15th year also marks the 10th year of its partnership with the Austin Parks Foundation, which annually receives funds based on a percentage of festival ticket sales. Those funds are used at parks all over Austin for projects such as building and maintaining trails, pools, dog parks, greenbelts and playscapes, says APF executive director Colin Wallis.
The funding “was relatively small that first year, but it has grown substantially since then,” Wallis said, noting that across those 10 years, the total has now passed $20 million.
He acknowledged that ACL Fest’s takeover of Zilker for two prime fall weekends has been “a contentious issue” with some citizens. “But at the end of the day, the funds from the festival significantly support the 300-odd parks around town that definitely need some sort of funding.”
Three-day general admission tickets, $255, go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday for both the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 first weekend and the Oct. 7-9 second weekend via the ACL Fest website. Single-day tickets will be sold at a later date.