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2023 ACL Fest brought $500M to Austin, $8M to local parks

Crowds at Zilker Park on Weekend One of Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2021.
Gabriel C. Pérez
KUT News
Crowds at Zilker Park on Weekend One of Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2021.

The 2023 edition of the Austin City Limits Music Festival generated nearly half a billion dollars in economic impact for the area, according to results of an analysis released Monday. The fest’s $499.9 million in financial activity represented a 12% increase over the impact of the 2022 festival, with that figure equaling 3,766 full-time jobs in the local economy.

The festival also announced an $8.1 million donation to the Austin Parks Foundation, another substantial increase for the nonprofit, which will use the funds to make improvements at local parks in all 10 City Council districts. Parks and amenities that will benefit include Little Walnut Creek Greenbelt, Grand Meadow Neighborhood Park, Montopolis Neighborhood Park, Barton Creek Greenbelt, Zilker Hillside Theater, Deep Eddy Pool and support of lifeguard training across all districts.

Those improvements come on top of the money that the festival’s promoter, C3 Presents, pays to the city each year to cover the cost of returning Zilker Park back to normal following the two weekends of concerts on nine stages that draw approximately 450,000 attendees.

The economic impact study, which was conducted by the AngelouEconomics consulting firm, was released less than a week after C3 Presents announced the lineup for the 2024 festival, which includes Dua Lipa, Blink 182, Chris Stapleton and Tyler, the Creator.

AngelouEconomics conducted the analysis to determine the economic impact, estimating the spending of attendees based on a surveyed sampling of guests, as well as total festival operations. Those calculations translate into the direct, indirect and induced spending that happens during the preparation of the festival and the performances of more than 150 acts.

Colin Wallis, CEO of Austin Parks Foundation, said his group meets regularly with representatives from the Parks and Recreation Department to determine which parks across the city are most in need of improvement. The APF board then votes to approve the funding requested, with funding also provided to volunteer community groups interested in serving as stewards for their local parks.

Wallis said the festival’s annual contributions to local parks help to improve accessibility and quality of the sites for neighbors to enjoy throughout the year.

“Austin’s nearly 400 parks, trails and green spaces are extremely important to the quality of life in the city — they’re a big part of what makes Austin Austin. We can see the impact of the festival’s contributions by the number of accessible parks in Austin and by the quality of those parks. A great example is our planned All Abilities Park that is coming to Onion Creek Metro Park. A large chunk of that project will be funded by ACL monies, and it will fill a big need for the city,” he said via email.

In recent years, members of the Music Commission have pushed C3 to do more to feature Austin artists as much as possible in the international mix of acts booked over the six days of music.

C3 leaders were unavailable for comment on Monday, but a spokesperson noted that more than 70 Austin-area food vendors and other merchants will be participating in the festival this year. The company also noted that 30 acts with Texas roots — including highly billed performers Khruangbin, Leon Bridges and Norah Jones — are included in this year’s lineup.

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