AUSTIN (KXAN) — An annual concert series and community gathering is leaving its traditional home in east Austin and heading to eastern Travis County this year.
Jump On It, which puts on weekly shows and provides community resources geared toward the city’s African-American community, starts Wednesday, June 20, at the Travis County Expo Center.
The venue is a change from previous years when organizers hosted the events at neighborhood parks around east Austin, most recently at Givens Park. Organizer Nook Turner told KXAN there are a couple reasons for moving the series this year, one of which is all-too-familiar for longtime east Austin families.
“It’s just the common theme right now, just pricing out the people that have been there, living there, the traditions and things of that nature,” Turner said.
Last year’s event at the city park cost considerably more than years before, he said, due to higher fees assessed by the city to use the land. In 2016, his contract shows, the total cost for an entire summer of weekly events was $1,820.
A year later, the contract sent to him shows a total price tag of $27,540. He revised his crowd size estimates down for that year and that lowered the overall cost, but Turner said he felt blindsided by the cost after months of planning.
“It was just a situation — set up — that wasn’t conducive,” he said.
Jason Maurer, the city parks system’s events manager, said their event applications are not biased and that they rely on a set fee schedule that’s based on expected crowd size.
For an event that draws 600-999 people, the cost to rent city parkland is $1,000 per day, plus a few hundred more for maintenance fees and a damage deposit. If the crowd exceeds 1,000 people, the cost jumps to $3,000 per day.
Maurer said the costs reflect the increased need for services from the city, for maintenance, safety, trash collection and more. Turner’s estimates for crowd size on his application were higher last year, he said, so the higher rates applied.
That fee structure applies to all city parks, Maurer said, except those that are exceedingly popular, like Auditorium Shores, which the city charges a flat rate of $5,000 a day to book.
Turner felt the price was too high for an event that registers voters and provides health screenings and HIV tests, among other services. But he’s avoiding the conflict altogether this year by moving the series east of east Austin, where he said the core of Austin’s African-American population is moving as big, modern houses replace family homes.
“East Austin now is turning into more of central Austin,” Turner said, “and where we’re at at the Expo Center is turning into east Austin.”
Lathema Meeks is all too familiar with that.
“Me, as a black woman, when I go in that neighborhood now, I feel out of place,” Meeks said. She bought a house near the Expo Center in 1980, but her mom still owns the house she bought in 1960, where Meeks grew up, on Chestnut Avenue.
All around the single-story home, modern two-story houses have popped up, and the neighborhood is changing, she said. Her 91-year-old mother is still able to afford the higher property taxes because other family members pitch in.
Meeks said she enjoyed taking her grandchildren to Jump On It in the past. “Younger family members enjoyed going right down the street, walking to Jump On It, and now you can’t just walk down to it.”
The new venue will actually be easier for her to get to, since she lives so close to the Travis County Expo Center, but it won’t be the same.
“It’s not that neighborhood feeling,” she said.