Grand Park Gets the Jay Z Touch

How this weekend’s Budweiser Made in America music festival is out to transform the park’s look—and its profile

L.A.’s so-called “people’s park” is about to be filled with a crowd—and sound equipment, staging, security, and beer. Lots and lots of beer. Budweiser’s Made in America music festival, which is curated by Jay Z, will host its first West Coast event, with 41 artists performing in Grand Park this weekend. The ticketed, two-day concert is expected to bring in an estimated 50,000 attendees each day, and it will require the entire site to be fenced in and the installation of 4 stages, 370 portable bathrooms, ATMs, merchandise stands, and a carnival ride (it wouldn’t be a legit music fest without one)—major work councilman Jose Huizar raised concerns over in April. (At the time, L.A. County supervisor Gloria Molina said, “Los Angeles has 99 problems, but Jay Z and Made in America ain’t one.”)

Grand Park has plenty of experience playing host—music and dance performances have been featured in the green space’s programming since it opened in 2012— but not to an event of this scale. This week, the mayor’s office announced 500 people were hired to help set up, and that 2,500 employees will staff each day of the concert. Budweiser brand manager Mike Thompson, who in the past helped produce the festival in Philadelphia, tells us what else is going into “establishing Budweiser Made in America as a part of the fabric of Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles.”

“Jay Z had a big role in choosing Grand Park as the location for the festival. You have to give him credit—he had a vision for what the event could be in downtown Los Angeles and in the park specifically with the beautiful backdrop of City Hall. He was spot on. It’s shaping up to be a spectacular event site.”

A Creative Approach to Staging
“It’s not as if you’re in one giant, wide-open space. We’re kind of at the mercy of the way the city is laid out and where the blocks are, so we are setting up beer gardens and areas of interactivity for consumers through the streets and in parking lots—areas where we can make it work.”

Extra Scaffolding
“The whole site is on an incline. I don’t know if this is accurate, but someone told me there is a 100 foot difference from the top of the park to the bottom, so that gives you a sense of the grade we are working with. When people come to the festival they are going to see a lot of scaffolding that levels the surface areas. We’ll all be in better shape by the end of the festival—our calves are getting a good workout here.”

Community-Invested Partners
“There are a lot of ways a festival like this will benefit the people of L.A. We’re working with United Way of Greater Los Angeles, and so all the money that is generated [for the organization] will stay here in the local Los Angeles area and benefits multiple charities. There’s an opportunity to have a real impact.”