It’s the end of an era for Welcome to Rockville. Festivals producers Danny Wimmer Presents have announced plans to relocate the Welcome to Rockville from Downtown Jacksonville to the Daytona International Speedway.
The news rocked hometown fans who were shocked to learn that after nine years, the popular hard rock festival would not return to Jacksonville in 2020. Rockville has hosted such hard rock artists as Tool, Soundgarden, Marilyn Manson, the Foo Fighters, Slayer, Ministry, Suicidal Tendencies, Judas priest, A Perfect Circle, Def Leppard, The Offspring, Slipknot, Korn, Godsmack, Slash and countless more.
“Welcome To Rockville might be leaving Jacksonville, but I’m not leaving Jacksonville behind,” says Danny Wimmer, founder of Danny Wimmer Presents. “This is where it all began – not just for Rockville, but for me. I love my hometown, and I’m really proud of what Rockville accomplished in its nine years in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, there was no longer a space at Metropolitan Park for us to deliver the kind of festival experience that Florida’s rock fans deserve. I’m excited to have a larger site to work with that allows us the room to continue growing the festival experience. I hope all of our Jacksonville friends will join us in this next phase of Welcome To Rockville’s evolution.”
Danny Hayes, CEO of Danny Wimmer Presents, says the event will find a new permanent home at the newly renovated speedway, which recently underwent a $400 million facelift. An additional $200 million invested in the surrounding area in recent years transformed the destination into a premiere facility with numerous hotels within walking distance, many dining options and expanded space for camping.
“The long-term plans for Met Park really make it impossible for us to continue producing the festival there. With the bridge construction coming up, we knew we needed to make alternate plans,” says Hayes. “We’ve known for two years that this could come to pass. We thought that 2018 was going to be our last year in the park but I think plans [for construction] got pushed back and we were able to get 2019 in. But were pretty certain 2019 was going to be the last year. We were hoping plans might change again but they obviously didn’t. We went out big last year and we were at the point this year where we had to start making decisions. We just couldn’t keep waiting any longer. And if we’re moving, the more lead time, the better.”
The 10th annual Welcome to Rockville Festival will be produced in 2020 in Daytona at the newly renovated speedway. The size of the facility, its amenities and its central location weighed heavily when looking for a new home. “I think it will really enhance the festival experience and allow us to grow at the rate that its been growing,” Hayes says.
Sold out crowds topped 90,000 in 2019 with plans to exceed 125,000 in 2020. The newly renovated infrastructure is also better suited to handle that volume, especially in the event of inclement weather. Crowds were forced to evacuate Metropolitan Park this year because of dangerous storm conditions and the wet weather compromised the integrity of the entire festival grounds.
“DIA can handle the rain better. One main thing is the way they built that concourse, we won’t have to evacuate people to their cars. We’ll be able to keep them on the property. As the crowds get bigger, I think it is an easier place to navigate through the weather eventualities,” says Hayes. “We were lucky for a lot of years. The law of averages came to get us, which was inevitable.”
As a Jacksonville native, the decision to move Rockville away from his hometown was difficult for Wimmer. “It was something he really didn’t want to do but ultimately, Danny has to do what’s best for the festival. It was a painful decision,” says Hayes, noting that a return to Metropolitan Park is not in the cards.
“I think it is extremely unlikely that Welcome to Rockville will return to Jacksonville. It would have to be that the park was being expanded. It’s very hard to go backwards. As the festival gets bigger and bigger, it would be hard to say ‘okay, we’re going to bring it back down in size’,” he says. “If we are successful in bringing in the 40,000 people a day with the kind of talent we’re booking, it would hard to aim for lower.”
Hayes says plans are in the works for a new music festival on a smaller scale and in a different location. “I know people are really disappointed and some people take it personally. I just hope they understand that we fought very hard to stay in Jacksonville. People really came out to support us when it looked like the noise ordinance might literally make it impossible for us to continue. That’s why it’s so important for people to understand we’re not leaving Jacksonville,” he says.
“We are going to bring something there and Danny will stay to connect to the market. He is completely committed to doing it. That is Danny’s home. He’s very proud of his roots and we’re not finished with Jacksonville. We’re in the process of figuring out what another festival in Jacksonville will look like.”