TOPEKA — Country Stampede officials said it was no longer financially feasible to have the festival in Manhattan, which is why they have decided to move it to Topeka permanently.
Stampede officials, along with representatives from the city of Topeka and its tourism board confirmed at a news conference Thursday morning that future festivals will no longer be in Manhattan, where it had been for the past 23 years. Organizers decided to move the event from Tuttle Creek State Park to Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka this year because of flooding concerns.
Michelle De La Isla, mayor of Topeka, announced the music festival, which began Thursday, also will undergo a name change.
“From now on, the event is going to be the Heartland Stampede,” De La Isla said. “We have been vying for this for a long time, and we are excited about this.”
Wayne Rouse, president and founder of Country Stampede, said the move is primarily for cost reasons.
“It’s no longer financially feasible for the event to be held in Manhattan,” Rouse said. “With the cost of talent going up and the pricing structure we had, we were not where we needed to be.”
Gil Cunningham, president at Neste Live!, which books acts for the event, said the permanent infrastructure at Heartland Motorsports Park will help to reduce costs. Officials hope the move will boost attendance, Cunningham said, and make it easier for artists to get to the venue.
“The population base is much greater here than what we had in Manhattan,” Cunningham said. “It’s going to be a better situation for us in terms of hitting a larger population base.”
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced Thursday that it had made a mutual decision to end its five-year contract with Stampede worth $419,000.
The Mercury obtained the contract, which had four years left, and the termination agreement.
As a part of the contract, Stampede paid the state $81,500 in 2018 and 2019. Had the contract continued, Stampede would have paid $83,000 in 2020, $85,000 in 2021 and up to $88,000 in 2022.
The contract includes an opt-out provision that allowed Stampede to end the contract at any time. However, the original contract said the permittee, Stampede, could not promote a similar concert for 18 months following termination. If it did, it would owe the parks department an amount equal to the fees remaining on the contract.
KDWPT said it will refund Stampede its $81,500 operator fee for the use of the venue this year, and Stampede will no longer be obligated to make any future payments.
According to the termination agreement, there is no monetary penalty, and Stampede is allowed to move forward with the event at another venue.
“Because of the extenuating circumstances, (Country Stampede) wouldn’t have been able to hold it at Tuttle Creek State Park,” said Ron Kaufman, director of information services at the department. “We were both in a bind.”
The termination agreement also says Tuttle Creek State Park would be allowed to host other concerts or events.
Despite the permanent move to Topeka and the economic effect on Manhattan, Rouse said the city has handled it well.
“Our relationship with Manhattan has always been great, and they’ve been so gracious about the move,” Rouse said.
Officials at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce in a statement that they were “obviously very disappointed” to hear of the decision.
“We are pleased to have been a big part of Country Stampede’s success and growth,” they said. “We believe the hundreds of thousands of people who attended Country Stampede in Manhattan throughout the years have enjoyed our hospitality and our community. The owners of Country Stampede have made it clear that this decision is not a reflection on the city of Manhattan or Tuttle Creek State Park. Our understanding is that Stampede officials needed to attract a new capital partner to continue to grow and expand the festival in the future.”
Cunningham said the new contract with Heartland Motorsports Park is for three years. He declined to provide any other details.