Tampa Mayor Says City Should 'Reconsider' Hosting Sunset Music Festival Following Deaths

Atmosphere at Sunset Music Festival

Atmosphere at Sunset Music Festival in 2015.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with a statement from the Sunset Music Festival.

Two people died and 57 more were hospitalized at Sunset Music Festival, which took place last weekend at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay.

Local news reports that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn spoke out against the SFX-owned festival earlier this week. “These type of festivals attract these type of drugs use and these types of drugs,” he noted. “You combine that with the heat in the stadium, it really made a perfect storm of bad things to happen,” he continued. “Clearly that’s an event that we as a community need to reconsider… The Sports Authority needs to look at whether or not that's an appropriate event for this community to host.”

Police Investigate Two Deaths at Sunset Music Festival

In addition, Buckhorn and the Tampa Fire Chief, Tom Forward, also expressed concern that the festival overwhelmed the city’s emergency response capabilities. “These guys [Tampa Fire Rescue] was running wheels off trucks trying to get people to St. Joe's,” Buckhorn said. “It really, really exhausted are resources,” added Forward.

Festival organizers released the following statement after the news of the deaths broke: "The health, safety and welfare of our fans and community is Sunset Music Festival’s first priority and we take every measure to create a safe environment at our events. Any loss of life is a tragedy and we extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those affected. Due to the ongoing investigation by the medical examiner’s office, Sunset will not issue additional comments at this time."

A rep for the Sunset Music Festival sent this statement to Billboard on Friday afternoon: "Any loss of life is a tragedy and we extend our deepest heartfelt condolences. The health, safety and welfare of our fans and community are Sunset Music Festival’s top priority and we take extensive measures to create a safe environment. Each year, as we have done for the past five years, we sit down with the Tampa Sports Authority, Tampa Fire Department, and the Tampa Police Department to layout a comprehensive safety program that is based on their recommendations so that all police, fire, and emergency medical technician staffing meets the City’s threshold. As a supplement to that, Sunset Music Festival has added private security, a private drug canine team, and other first-responder and safety staff. As always, the festival provides free water and communicates regularly with patrons about safety. Sunset Music Festival does not condone, provide, encourage or otherwise, the use of illegal or illicit drugs. The City of Tampa has been a first-rate host and partner of Sunset Music Festival and we are fortunate to call the City home. We hope to continue to provide jobs and revenue to Tampa, and joy to the patrons we serve, for many years to come. We have attempted to reach the Mayor and look forward to the opportunity to sit down with his office. Our goal is to work with the Mayor’s office and local authorities cooperatively so as to avoid incident at future festivals."

The Sports Authority, which runs the stadium, addressed Buckhorn’s concerns obliquely in a statement about the weekend’s events. “First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families affected by this tragedy during this difficult time,” the statement read. “Presently, we are working with the event promoter and local officials to obtain more information about these incidents at the Sunset Music Festival. After this information has been obtained and discussed with our partners at the county and the city, we will present the findings to the Tampa Sports Authority Board for review. After that review, we will be able to make a more informed decision as to the Festival’s future at our facility.”