Riverbend switches to wristbands for 2014

Riverbend switches to wristbands for 2014

December 6th, 2013 by Barry Courter in Local Regional News

POLL: Are wristbands a good idea for Riverbend?


• The corporate sales program is under way, with wristbands available at $28 each in numbers of 100 or more.

• General admission wristbands will cost $35 and go on sale May 1 at area Kangaroo stores. General admission wristbands will be available for $28 only on Dec. 14 at Hamilton Place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Patrons who want collectible pins will be able to get them online at riverbendfestival.com or at the Friends of the Festival office on Hamm Road after May 1.

Riverbend is going high tech and will replace the admission pins that have been used since 1983 with wristbands that include a bar code, according to executive director Chip Baker.

The bar codes will be scanned upon entry and exit and will eventually provide demographic information to organizers. In the next couple of years, as costs decline, the wristbands will be outfitted with radio frequency identification chips, similar to those used by festivals such as the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

The chips allow festival organizers to monitor crowd flow through check points, disable lost or stolen wristbands and to even allow holders to make purchases using just the wristband. The wristbands will have a watermark as well, making them harder to counterfeit, according to spokeswoman Amy Morrow.

The traditional pins will still be available to collectors, Baker added, but a wristband will be required to enter the site. Eventually, perhaps within three years, the wristbands will replace tokens as a means of buying merchandise at the festival, he said. Patrons will be able to preload the chips like they do with a prepaid card and then use the wristbands to make purchases.

"This is the first step to going to the RFID chip," Baker said. "They are still pretty expensive and we don't want to raise the admission price to cover the cost."

The admission price is going up, as Baker had promised it would last year, to cover the cost of contract security. In most of the previous years, the Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff's Office covered the cost of having officers inside the festival grounds.

When the city decided it no longer would pay for the officers, Friends of the Festival moved to hire its own security, mostly off-duty police officers, while continuing to work with the city and county on its security plan.

Baker said the admission cost will rise $2 to $28 for corporate wristbands, which are on sale now, and $3 to $35 for general admission wristbands, which will go on sale May 1. The cost at the gate during the festival will be $45.

Crowds fill Riverfront Parkway at the 2013 Riverbend festival in this file photo.

Crowds fill Riverfront Parkway at the 2013 Riverbend...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Patrons will be able to remove the wristbands daily during the nine-day festival, meaning they can still pass them around to friends and family, as they have done with the pins.

"That is not a concern," Baker said. "It's more about gate control [this year] with future possibilities like being able to gather demographics and to be able to offer more opportunities for our sponsors."

Patrons will not have to register their wristbands this year, but Morrow said it is hoped that people will.

"It will help us find out things about who is coming and where they are coming from. Things like that," she said. "We will offer prizes for registering, but we are still working on that."

Bonnaroo introduced RFID wristbands in 2012, and co-producer Ashley Capps with AC Entertainment said last year that the chips were used to monitor crowd flow and to help identify patrons who became lost or disoriented, for example.

"It also gives us a precise number of the people who are on site and at what location," he said. "This lets us know about capacity and things like that. It doesn't let us track where someone is, as some people think."

Capps said the wristbands have far greater potential for the future.

"We are just scratching the surface with the RFID chip," he said. "It can evolve into a pay system where you don't have to keep up with cash and you can keep up with your friends or podmates via social media."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.