West Shore expects Rock the Shores boost

The Rock the Shores music festival in Colwood is amped to rock the local economy and profile of the West Shore in July.

“From an economic standpoint, this is a boost to the whole West Shore,” said Colwood councillor Rob Martin. “It also speaks to something we’ve been trying to do in Colwood, which is to become more focused on arts and culture.”

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This year’s expanded three-day festival at the Juan De Fuca Recreation Centre’s lower fields runs July 11-13.

It’s the biggest event of its kind planned for the capital region. More than 35,000 revellers are expected to attend — paying $59 for a single day pass, $129.50 for all three days or $279.50 for a VIP pass. Headliners include Billy Talent, Our Lady Peace, Gord Downie, The Wallflowers, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Loverboy, 54-40, Sloan and The Sadies.

“The festival has demonstrated that not only are local people supporting it but people are willing to travel,” Martin said, noting the Colwood’s first hotel is being built across the street from the recreation centre.

“Now that we have these events we can begin to look at doing more.”

Although there were initial concerns about damage to the field, Martin said it hasn’t been a problem in the past two years. This year, he said organizers and security are looking to shorten wait times to get into the event — but other than that, there are no complaints. The general feedback has been the festival is a boon to local economies.

“This year we’ll be looking at tools to measure the specific impacts,” said Nick Blasko of Atomique Productions.

The Victoria-based company produces Rock the Shores, Victoria’s Rifflandia music festival and concerts around Greater Victoria.

Blasko said Rock the Shores will provide more jobs and opportunities for local businesses.

“We expect there to be about 450 paid employees on the field each day,” Blasko said. The jobs range from security and catering to vendors and musicians.

Other impacts include travel revenue for taxis and buses, as well as visits to nearby hotels and businesses.

B.C. Transit will put on extra buses to and from the festival with costs shared by the organizers.

While much of the stage and sound equipment comes from the mainland, the toilets, fencing, tents, power system and water are all sourced locally.

“Local is key. We’re not married to it, but it has worked out,” said Blasko, using beer as an example. He said typically rock festivals will go to major breweries like Labatts or Molson, but his company has built a relationship with Phillips Brewery over the years.

“They have the diversity and the ability to handle an event like this and people like them. It’s a testament to how strong micro and craft brewing is here on the Island.”

He added he’s hoping the new B.C. liquor regulations, which will eliminate beer gardens and allow patrons to move about with purchased alcohol, are in effect by festival time. This will limit lineups and crowding.

In the past two years, local hotels have booked up long before festival day and revellers were seen at nearby restaurants and shopping malls.

“It’s a great boost for everyone who lives here,” said Amanda Cook, who works as the front office manager for the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in nearby Langford. “The hotel was absolutely booked and with people from all over the Island.”

Cook said the hotel is a draw because it’s barely a 10-minute drive to the festival ground.

“People also walked there. It’s a nice way to wind down at the end of the night,” she said, adding she’s already seen a spike in booking for this year’s dates and lots of chatter about the festival on her Facebook page.

The festival brings pride to and raises interest in the region, Blasko said.

“We know this event is resonating with the West Shore,” he said.

Half of last year’s ticket sales came from postal codes in the western communities.

“The infrastructure gets pretty crazy the bigger it gets and we seem to need more each year,” Blasko said. The sound system is double the size used for Rifflandia and the stage is taller. “This was always meant to be a rock music festival for rock lovers.”

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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