Attendees at this year's Northwest Fourth Fest might have to pay for a ticket if they want to see two bands perform live on Friday, July 5, in Hoffman Estates.
In an effort to enhance revenue at the second annual festival, guests would be charged $10 to enter the fenced-off Village Green across the street from the Sears Centre arena, where rock band 7th Heaven and a yet-to-be-determined musical act will be playing.
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Ben Gibbs, general manager of the arena, said at a village board meeting Monday that charging for the music during one night of the festival is a "very low-risk experiment." The arena is planning to cover the costs upfront to host the artists, along with any additional expenses relating to the performance.
"It's a natural progression of a festival that was so popular in year one that if you didn't try you'd kind of be leaving money on the table," Gibbs said.
Gibbs was confident that the second artist the arena is eyeing will be well-received by attendees.
"If we get the band we want, it'll be somebody that can easily sell 2,000 seats at $35 a piece. The question is can we sell 4,000 at $10?" he said. "It's definitely an experiment, but one that I think is worth trying."
The board agreed to let the arena go ahead with the ticketed entertainment, but Gibbs said the $10 charge will be implemented only if the second band signs on. He estimated that the arena staffers will know in about two weeks if they secured the band. The name wasn't disclosed Monday.
Trustee Ray Kincaid was the only board member who voted "no" on the measure, saying after the meeting that he thinks the fest should stay free.
Gibbs said the two nights of the festival that he expects to be the busiest -- July 4 and July 6 -- will still include free entry, parking and entertainment.
"I think $10 still fits in with our family-friendly event," he said. "We're still bringing a lot of entertainment for free; it's just this is the one thing we're changing.
"It's a new premise and I'm expecting some pushback, but I just want to make sure that the residents know that they can still have a very similar experience to last year."
Kincaid asked how the new charge would affect the partnership the village has with Elgin, Hanover Township and Hanover Park to put on the fest, and Village Manager Jim Norris it wouldn't.
"They don't share in revenue back at this point because there hasn't been a profit," Norris said. "They donate cash for the fireworks and they donate labor for setup and tear-down and cleanup and they provide some paramedic services during the event."
If the ticketed concert does make a profit, the arena and village's Fourth of July Commission will share it. The arena is willing to accept any loss, though, as down the line charging for the musical acts might underwrite an entire night, or even multiple nights, of the festival.
"If the residents reject it wholeheartedly we'll know. We can't do it again," Gibbs said.