When Funk Fest, a two-day celebration of old-school hip-hop, soul and R&B music, decided to move from St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park across the bay to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, it was a big deal for both cities.
"Frankly, we hated to see them leave," said Clarence Scott, St. Petersburg's leisure and community services administrator.
The concert had drawn daily crowds of 4,000 to 6,000 to Vinoy Park the last few years, and the city had a good working relationship with promoter Leo Bennett, who had made a number of logistical improvements to the festival.
But for Bennett, the 11.6 acres at Vinoy Park was not a good fit.
"That's really what it came down to," said Bennett, whose Charlotte, N.C., company promotes similar festivals in Orlando, Jacksonville and Atlanta. "The numbers that we were getting and the cost of the park, it just didn't make sense."
That's where Tampa and its 8 acres at Curtis Hixon Park came in.
"I was looking to find a way to bring some type of major entertainment that could draw African-Americans to downtown, and I had heard through my discussions with people in the community that Funk Fest was leaving St. Pete," council member Frank Reddick said.
So Reddick said he reached out to Bennett and set up meetings with city parks officials and the Tampa Downtown Partnership.
"It was just a matter of people getting to know each other and making sure that the facility at Curtis Hixon will be able to accommodate that crowd," Reddick said.
Once officials identified an open weekend — May 3 and 4 — booking the event was a straightforward process, said Tampa parks and recreation director Greg Bayor.
In its new home, Funk Fest will feature Jagged Edge, Doug E. Fresh and Keyshia Cole on May 3 and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, the SOS Band, Salt-N-Pepa and Anthony Hamilton on May 4. Tickets range from $40 to $90 for a single day and from $65 to $140 for both days. Organizers expect about 5,000 people per day, and Reddick hopes for a good turnout of music fans from all over the Tampa Bay area and a lasting relationship between the festival and the city of Tampa.
"It would be great if there was a possibility of bringing it back for another year," he said.
Richard Danielson can be reached at d[email protected] or (813) 226-3403.