After years of dealing with soaking rains and withering heat, Red, White & Boom director Michael Jordan can guarantee it will be 72 degrees and dry for this year's edition of the popular country music festival.
That's because the festival presented by WBUL-FM 98.1 is moving from the open air of Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends, to the home of University of Kentucky men's basketball, Rupp Arena.
"The biggest factor for the move was what we were hearing back in audience surveys," Jordan, regional senior vice president of iHeartMedia, said in an interview. "People complain that they want reserved seats and they complain about the weather."
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The opening day of last year's fest took place under some of the toughest conditions in the event's history, with the remnants of Hurricane Harvey hanging over Lexington. After that, the temperatures took a dive.
"We got three of the four seasons on a three-day weekend," Jordan said of the 2017 Boom. "By moving the event indoors, we can insure that it will be dry and 72 for the concerts."
And he can ensure that people who want reserved seats will get good seats. Because of the configuration of the ball park and the position of the festival stage in the outfield, fans in reserved seats were far from the performances. The festival tried to remedy that last year with special seating areas closer to the stage, but being in the arena will allow for more reserved seating.
"People can have their own areas in the event for all three days," Jordan said.
While he understands that some fans may miss the open-air atmosphere of the late summer festival, which again will be on Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, Jordan says reduced ticket prices may mitigate some of the disappointment.
A base three-day ticket will be $99 before fees, as opposed to $199 last year. Their will be ascending levels of ticket packages up to a $299 VIP ticket. The price reduction comes in part because the festival will not need to import all the staging and lighting needed to make the show happen in the ball park, Jordan said.
TIckets will go on sale at 10 a.m. June 8 through the Lexington Center ticket office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by calling 859-233-3535 or visiting Rupparena.com. Jordan said only three-day tickets will be offered initially and if daily tickets are offered, it will be within a few weeks of the event.
In Rupp, Boom will be presented on a turntable stage, allowing for quicker switch overs between acts than the 30-or-more minutes it usually took in the ball park, and allowing the event to add one act each day, bringing the three-day artist count up to 15. And Jordan said there will be features around Lexington Center to make the event feel like more than a Rupp Arena concert.
The Legends, which have been major partners in presenting the festival since it moved to the ball park in 2011, will continue to be involved in the event.
"We're the finance partner," Legends President and CEO Andy Shea said after a Tuesday morning press conference to announce the move. "So we've still got a lot invested literally and figuratively between the name of Red, White & Boom and the finance piece of it. So we'll be actively involved, in a different way, but just as much as we have been the previous seven years."
Shea added that while Boom is moving from the ball park, there are some events lined up for the fall that will be announced later in the summer. He noted that the Legends felt they had hit an untapped market with the success of the sold-out Nelly and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony concert earlier this month and said they are looking for another hip-hop show in a similar vein.
While Boom is leaving the ball park, Shea, who said a study showed the event had a $10 million economic impact on Lexington, said he is thrilled for the event to take the next step in its evolution.
In a way, Boom is boomeranging back to its roots.
The festival began in 2004 as a free country music extravaganza in the parking lot behind Rupp Arena as part of Lexington's July 4 festivities. The lineup was primarily up-and-coming artists. The move in 2011 brought a modest ticket price and slight marquee upgrade, and then in 2016, it made the major move to the Labor Day weekend with A-List headliners such as Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. Last year's Sunday edition, with Shelton headlining, set the Boom attendance record of 17,500.
And therein lies one thing fans will need to wait for: This year's lineup. Most of the headliners and other artists will be announced at 7:20 a.m. Monday morning on WBUL and iHeartMedia country stations across Kentucky, Jordan said. We will have complete information here and in Tuesday's Herald-Leader.
WBUL morning host DeAnn Stephens, who will make that announcement along with Officer Don Evans, said there is a lot to be excited about in the lineup.
"It's a great lineup," she said. "It's a mix that will be attractive to a lot of different age groups."