The Party Poop
Within two weeks of the Chronicle's last extensive look at A2K, "Eve of Destruction?" (Oct. 29), Mayor Kirk Watson's team of A2K party planners announced a series of new or slightly revised strategies for the event. Behind the scenes, Watson brought in a new event coordinator, Charlie Jones -- a concert and event promoter whose MiddleMan Music Company has produced the city's Lance Armstrong parade, the Antone's Blues Festival, and last week's Christmas Carnival at Waterloo Park. Since late October, Jones has been handling day-to-day logistics for the event, while John Segrest, who had formerly been producing the event alone, is working to coordinate Capital Metro's shuttle service, downtown business operations, and media relations.
"This is a huge job," Jones says. "It's not a one-man job. But it's not like the basic formula for an event like this isn't already in place. It's not like we're reinventing the wheel. It's just that the wheel is a little bit bigger."
Jones says that he believes city planners will actually wind up catering to a crowd smaller than the 200,000 partygoers city officials have been anticipating, but that plans for police protection, permits, street closures, private security, and insurance typically assume a range of about 200,000 to 250,000. And since the bulk of the micro-planning has been turned over to a series of local businesses such as Southwest Security, High End Lighting, Upfront Staging, and Big House Sound, Jones says that the biggest task remaining for A2K lies with its overall promotional plan. Jones says he's counting on the media to spread the word about A2K's schedule, dos, don'ts, and security issues, as well as A2K-related street closures. To that end, here's information on the "new and improved" A2K to help you decide whether you'll want to head downtown for New Year's Eve:
The area between Colorado and Brazos streets will be closed from Second to 11th streets. Also, most of the north-south streets from Congress to I-35 will be closed between Sixth and Eighth.
On Wednesday, Dec 29, stage construction for the stage on Ninth and Congress will begin, closing Congress between Ninth and 10th streets from 9am Wednesday through Saturday, Jan. 1. Construction on the Third Street stage and the Sixth Street countdown area will begin on Thursday, Dec. 30, closing down Congress between Second and Third from 9am Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 1.
What's Different: The old plan called for virtually the entire downtown area to be closed -- all the way from Lavaca to I-35, and Second to 11th. According to Jones and Police Chief Stan Knee, the city's police force will be more effective with a smaller area to cover. The scaled-back street closures will also placate local businesses, which were closed in from traffic as part of the old plan. "The old plan seemed liked an awful waste of space and police manpower," Jones says. "This smaller closure should help with traffic, mobility, and business owners. This way, there's only a few restaurants within the closure. For the few that are still inside the closure, instead of the valet dropping them at the front door, it's going to be something like four doors down."
Live Music Stages
A2K will feature two stages. Each, says Jones, will be designed as a mini-venue that offers 800 reserved seats and 300 general-admission bleacher seats (available from Star Tickets at 469-SHOW). All other standing-room-only spaces are free and open to the public.
THIRD & CONGRESS STAGE:
Bruce Robison (7pm)
Shawn Colvin (8pm)
Robert Earl Keen (9:30pm).
NINTH & CONGRESS STAGE:
Little Joe y la Familia (6:30pm)
Miss Lavelle White (7:30)
Kelly Willis (8:45)
Lyle Lovett (10:35)
What's Different: Rather than music playing simultaneously on two stages, the performances have been spread out. And while that leaves open the possibility that thousands of people will be constantly shifting between the stages, organizers say the light tower they'll use for the countdown will provide a relay station where partygoers can hear music from both stages. Also, W.C. Clark has been replaced by Miss Lavelle White.
Beverages & Alcohol Sales
A2K will feature six "refreshment areas" -- fenced areas with beer/champagne vendors, nonalcoholic beverage vendors, and food vendors. The largest area will be at Third and Congress, although vendors will be spread all along Congress -- including a series of "private" refreshment areas and bathrooms for the exclusive use of reserved ticket holders.
Open-container laws will remain in effect, meaning alcoholic beverages cannot leave the cordoned-off refreshment areas.
Organizers say they'll provide free nonalcoholic beverages to designated drivers who pick up color-coded wristbands at any refreshment area.
No one may bring alcohol, glass, open containers, or coolers into the A2K party.
What's Different: Although A2K organizers originally planned an alcohol-free event, and later considered an event where the open-container law would be lifted, they've settled on the refreshment areas, to be patrolled by both police and private security, as a compromise.
Shuttles, Taxis, Parking
Capital Metro will offer shuttles to downtown, beginning at 5pm on the 31st, from both the old Robert Mueller Airport and the Toney Burger Center (U.S. Hwy. 290 W.). Shuttles will drop passengers off at Seventh and I-35 and conclude service at 2am. Round-trip passes will be sold in advance for $5. Call 474-1200 for more info.
Pay lots and meters outside the enclosed area will still be available for parking, but spaces will be limited -- mostly because restaurants and bars have already contracted out most of the paid parking spaces in advance. Organizers offer three recommendations for partygoers who don't buy the shuttle passes: carpool, arrive early, or designate a driver.
Visit the A2K Web site: http://www.austin2k.org