In addition to headlining sets by LCD Soundsystem, Pearl Jam, Dead & Company, this weekend’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee will offer its 80,000 attendees something many may consider at various moments far more essential: flushable toilets. For the first time in its fifteen year history the confab will have 300 porcelain thrones with running water housed in two permanent bathroom structures.
“It’s not the sexiest thing,” says Rick Farman, Bonnaroo co-founder and principle of Superfly, “but it’s such a meaningful part of what we can do to improve the experience. It’s one of those things we’ve always dreamed of being able to do to improve comfort for fans “Manchester City Water built a huge mainline pipe through the entire site. It gives us a lot of options for the future things we can do with water that are different from what we’ve done before.”
The commode initiative features two large lavatories: one at Centeroo’s west entrance and another in the crossover between Centeroo and the What Stage area as well as three new showers areas each with 56 news showers located in the campground areas (pods seven, two and three) as well as 58 new water filling stations.
This major capitol investment, which cost millions (the promoter declined to give an exact dollar figure) marks Bonnaroo’s first major initiative with Live Nation which in April of 2015 bought a controlling interest in Bonnaroo from co-founders Superfly and AC Entertainment.
“I definitely give a lot of credit to the the Live Nation team for everything they brought to the table in making this happen,” says Farman. “There is no way it would have happened without them. They provided a lot of leadership in making it as good as it is.” The promoter says the water upgrade is something his team has wanted to do since they bought the Great Stage Park (A.K.A. The Farm) property in 2007.
While no other major improvements were made to this year’s Bonnaroo, Farman says his team will consider additional upgrades after this year’s festival with their team and a rather unexpected promotions company Superfly has been consulting with which up until recently had been something of a competitor.
“We’re already working with the C3 guys who have been our contemporaries from the beginning, “Farman says of the Austin-based promoter, which in late-2014 Live Nation also acquired a majority stake in. “Bonnaroo was started the same year as Austin City Limits, so those guys and us are cut from the same cloth and we’ve had similar journeys and now we’re part of the same team. For this event we were able to sit down and say, ‘How can we work together?’ They had a bunch of their team down here this year. And we’ll be gong to Lollapalooza and we’ll be going out to Austin City Limits, where we’ve been before, but we’ll be going there with a different mind-set of how we can work together.”
While Farman credits his business partners with the new bathrooms, showers and water resources ultimately he says all improvements lie with the fans. “The only reason we can do any of this is because have such an amazing community who come here and spend their hard earned money and it’s our job to put that back into the right place,” he says. “We’re always looking for how we can create the most comfortable environment for the fans, obviously having the… best place to do what you gotta do… is one of those things we felt was a baseline and if we could improve that we should because that’s how we want to treat our fans.”