Safety Concerns Delay Florida Metal Festival

Edward Fitzpatrick of the Providence Journal reports that a Florida heavy metal festival, which was going to raise money for The Station Family Fund, has been postponed because of fire-code issues raised by the local fire marshal.

Metalfest 2003 — with a list of performers that included LYNCH MOB, FIREHOUSE, BANG TANGO and BULLET BOYS — was expected to draw at least 18,000 people to an auto-racing track near Tampa, Florida, over the course of the Fourth of July weekend. And 10 percent of the ticket sales was earmarked for families of those who died in The Station fire.

But the fire code allows only about 7,800 people at the track under its current configuration, Hillsborough County Fire Marshal Don Goff said yesterday. So the festival has been postponed.

Goff said he wanted to make sure that people could safely exit the track if a fire were to break out. "Otherwise, you could have a program for Rhode Island and end up with a Rhode Island," he said, referring to the Feb. 20 West Warwick blaze, which killed 100 people.

In theory, the infield at East Bay Raceway Park can accommodate as many as 55,000 people, Goff said, but the track is surrounded by a foot-thick concrete retaining wall with only four exits. "If something would have happened, there is no way in God's creation to get 55,000 people out of there in time," he said. "I just wanted to make sure that if an issue came up, we'd be able to egress people out safely."

Given the number of exits, the fire code allows just 3,564 people in the track infield, plus another 4,242 in bleachers, Goff said. That leaves the legal capacity at 7,806 — far below the number expected during the weekend-long event.

Goff said he realizes the event was going to raise money for victims of the Rhode Island fire. "It's too bad," he said. "I'd love to say 'Go for it.' But I'm not going to jeopardize someone's life."

Postponement might have been avoided if the event's promoter had addressed fire-code issues earlier, Goff said. But he said the promoter first talked to him two weeks ago after the sheriff's department notified him of the event. "He was trying to do the right steps, but it was too late in the game," Goff said.

The promoter, Tim Bryant, president of Past 2 Present Promotion & Production, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. The Metalfest 2003 web site contained the following message: "Due to fire marshal attendance regulations, Metalfest has been postponed (not canceled)." GREAT WHITE's web site said Metalfest has been postponed until Labor Day.

(Thanks: Providence Journal)

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