A Folly Beach company is developing an outdoor concert and festival space near Bowman called Yonder Field.
Yonder Field LLC is building the 218-acre outdoor venue off of Log Cabin Road. The road is off of Homestead Road, north of Bowman.
The venue will host concerts, shows and festivals complete with multiple temporary stages.
Yonder Field is currently under construction and is expected to open in May 2017, with the season running until October.
An estimated 10 to 15 concerts will occur annually with a projected economic impact of $40 million to $50 million on the local economy, according to the company. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people are expected to attend the concerts.
Yonder Field is projected to employ 300 to 400 seasonal workers such as parking staff, guest services staff, security, stage crews and cleaning staff. A job fair will be held in the spring.
Yonder Field General Manager and President Stacie Darr White grew up in South Carolina, but later moved away.
"Every time I would visit, I would notice that A-list, stadium-level acts bypass South Carolina," White said. "I knew there was a market here for this level of events, if we could find the right location."
White, who has since returned to the state, said, "This project is something I have been considering and pursuing for about five years now."
Yonder Field is being developed as a “festival environment” where people can feel like they have left their lives behind for a day.
"We want to provide a truly immersive experience with colorful art, inspiring music, great food and beautiful South Carolina nature," White said. "In order to achieve this, we needed to locate the venue in an area that was not in a city environment or residential area. In our eyes, the architecture of this venue is nature."
News of Yonder Field first broke on social media. More appeared in the digital magazine Amplify, which covers live entertainment.
According to the Amplify article, which quotes White, Yonder Field will include an open air beer and wine pavilion on an elevated plot with a view of the main stage. There will be access to food vendors and a food truck village for larger events.
Local artists will provide murals for the field and handle merchandise and posters for the venue and its events, according to Amplify.
The layout will include two stages.
The main stage will have an enclosed general admission standing pit for 5,000 people, according to Amplify. There will be room for an additional 24,000 people around it and a VIP grandstand for 500.
It is expected to have video towers.
According to Amplify, the site will also have cabins with rooftop viewing decks in front of the grandstand.
The second stage, the Tailgate Stage, will be smaller and more mobile than the main stage with the capacity for 7,000 guests.
White told The T&D the project's impact will be limited to a few times a year.
"We are not a traditional venue in the sense that we will operate 365 days a year," she said. "We will look to do between 10-15 shows in 2017."
White says this means there will be a maximum of 20 to 25 days of activity at the site.
"Because everything is built with temporary infrastructure, when there are no shows, the site will simply be a quiet, open green field," she said. "That means that about 345 days of the year, the site will be inactive."
The land also offers ample space for camping. Any event, festival or otherwise, will have the ability to provide overnight accommodations for between 2,000 and 3,000 cars, White said.
Yonder will provide additional entertainment after the main acts and will have meal options such as backyard BBQs for overnight guests, the Amplify article states.
White also noted Yonder Field's staff is top notch.
"Our team is highly professional and very seasoned in doing events even in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 capacity in major Los Angeles and New York markets," White said. "We are implementing top-notch safety and operational policies."
Patten Seed Company, the parent company of SuperSod, helped Yonder secure the land. It is assisting with the placement and maintenance of the greenery, and also offers an additional 305 acres of farm for Yonder’s larger events.
Patten Seed Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Roquemore said he was approached about a year ago by White.
"She was really looking for some real estate," Roquemore said. "She approached me about some land."
Roquemore said he primarily has helped connect White with individuals who would be able to help her.
He owns about 90 acres that are under option for White to purchase in the future if she desires. She will lease his portion of the land until she decides whether to purchase it.
"I think it will be great for the hotels and restaurants and good entertainment to help improve the quality of life," Roquemore said. He said the location right off of Interstate 26 and close to Interstate 95 is ideal.
"She plans to bring in top-flight entertainment that will add to our enjoyment. I did not see anything wrong with the project,” he said.
The venue's concourse was designed by William "Rocky" Roquemore, who is the landscape architect for four Disney World golf courses. William is Jim’s brother.
White says she was looking for the property for several years.
In 2014, she found that “perfect location.”
"Initially, I wanted the site to be at the intersection of Interstate 26 and Interstate 95," she said. "It became apparent very quickly that the land in that vicinity had issues with access, lacking multiple points of entry and exit."
White also said the location was difficult to drain and grade.
"At that point, I began looking slightly more north and landed on Bowman as the best location to capture a maximum market reach from all outlying populations: Charleston, Columbia, Savannah, Florence and beyond," White said.
"There are 5 million people who live within a two-hour drive of Yonder Field who currently have to go elsewhere (usually leaving our state) to see an A-list concert," White said. "Major headliners who would otherwise overlook South Carolina will now see us as a viable market which will in turn have a great impact on the local economy."
White said the property was also attractive because a natural creek divides it.
"A wide-open, 200-acre field lacks a lot of character," she said. "Because of the creek and the way the trees naturally grow, the site feels more intimate and enclosed. It is also better for safety purposes and crowd management."
The property will also have an entryway.
"It will be serpentine brick walls with an iron arch," White said. "I lived in Aiken, South Carolina, as a young child and always loved the serpentine brick walls at Hopelands Garden and the museum, which was still a library when I lived there."
"It's meant to have an antebellum look and feel," she said. "It will be an aesthetic entry, as opposed to a functional gate or closure. Plus, the geometry of the curved brick is actually twice as strong and less expensive as straight brick wall."
The 137-acre property is zoned commercial general, making the project a permitted use without it having to be rezoned. Surrounding properties from Homestead Road down to U.S. 301 are also zoned business/industrial.
Though a permitted use, parking and landscaping plans will need to go through the county's planning department. White says the land has been purchased and the company has done its due diligence.
"We have taken great care to loop in local legislators and county personnel, as well as state oversight agencies," she said. "We are working hand in hand with the Department of Revenue, Department of Health and Environmental Control, Department of Transportation and Orangeburg County offices to be sure that any and all guidelines are met and or exceeded."
Roquemore believes the venue will be able to draw big-name acts, perhaps like Elton John or country music artists Brooks and Dunn.
The venue would be ideal for a concert such as Farm Aid, which would help raise money for local farmers, he said.
News of the project did not sit well with some neighbors in the area, prompting about 25 people to appear before Orangeburg County Council on Tuesday.
They expressed concerns about traffic, noise, impact on the environment, emergency response, security, litter, quality of life, drunkenness and property values.
White says neighbors’ concerns are “one of our top priorities.”
A study conducted for the company shows “outside of a one-mile perimeter, there will be no noise disturbance,” she said. "In the vicinity between three-fourths to one mile, there will be latent noise outside, but it will not be heard inside one’s home."
Yonder Field used the services of Nashville-based Sound Image to measure the sound level pressure the project will have on surrounding neighbors. Sound Image will also install the audio system.
In a letter to White, Sound Image General Manager Everett Lybolt says the project is expected “to have an extremely minimal effect on the impact area.”
"We recently did similar predictions for a promoter at the University of Iowa in relationship with the University of Iowa Children's Hospital SPL limits for the neonatal unit," Lybolt writes in the letter. "The predictions were very accurate and the concert series continues. Please note, that this is not a guarantee but a professional opinion. However, Sound Image will install an audio system in a configuration which will achieve optimum results."
According to Sound Image, there will be two homes more than 3,000 feet from the back of the stage, several homes to the east of the stage with the closest being 1,420 feet and a final group of homes being 4,800-plus feet from the stage to the south-southeast.
The company says the noise impact assumes concert-level noise of 100 decibels 150 feet from the stage, a properly designed public address system and the presence of the surrounding forests.
"The homes directly to the north of the stages are located over 3,000 feet away, through roughly 450 feet of forest," according to Sound Image.
With the forests, the company estimates sound levels will be 31.5 dB, Sound Image says. Without the forests, decibel levels will be 54 dB at the closest home.
"The expected sound arriving at the closest home to the north from the stage will be far below the quiet whisper, if even at all noticeable," Sound Image states.
For homes southeast of the stage area, about 200 feet of forest will “mitigate the sound,” according to the Sound Image.
“Here we can expect the levels to be 62dB without obstruction, and roughly 52dB considering the forest," the report states. "This is quieter than the average conversation, and is estimated outside the home."
Homes to the east of the stage will “have the highest probability of hearing anything from the venue,” Sound Image says.
"However, these homes are located through dense forest, and the closest of them are directly perpendicular to the stage," Sound Image notes. "These homes would be located in an area we could ‘steer’ the low frequency sound away from, as the higher frequencies are scattered and absorbed by the forest."
Sound Image states that the highest sound level without forest would be 70dB.
"With the forest, and low frequency steering considered, we can expect 65dB (quieter than a car passing on the street) for the closest home, to 60dB or less for the remaining homes," Sound Image states.
White said because the property is not directly off of Interstate 26, “it provides a better flow for traffic patterns.”
"If someone is coming from Columbia or Florence, their GPS will automatically direct them off on Highway 301," White said. "If someone is coming from Savannah or Charleston, their GPS will bring them up to Exit 159 on I-26. Therefore, the traffic is already naturally divided and alleviates concern that all traffic would inundate a particular entry route."
"A key factor of that experience is ease of access, ingress and egress of the site," she said.
The company’s traffic plan includes:
- Multiple points of entry and exit, including maintaining paths for emergency vehicle access at all times.
- Gates will open at 2 p.m. on show days so that patrons can tailgate before the performances.
"This means that we have six hours to get traffic in before an 8 p.m. show," White said. "We will offer camping passes for all shows."
White said these initiatives will help to mitigate the possibility of patrons entering and leaving the same time.
"Our multiple points of exit and proximity to I-26 and I-95 allows us to alleviate traffic quickly and efficiently in all directions," she said.
White said “wildlife go where there is food and habitat.”
"We are not destroying habitat," White said. "We are in fact planting more trees and building ponds that will attract wildlife when there are no shows."
Due to the temporary nature of the venue, White said the only structure being built on the site is a pole barn.
"There are no paved parking lots and no concrete band shell," she said. "All of the art, stages, tents and our VIP grandstands are temporary structures."
White said cabins being used for dressing rooms and offices are considered personal recreational vehicles.
"Because everything is temporary infrastructure, we will only begin building out the site one week prior to the first show," she said. "And when our season is over, it will all go away."
White grew up in North Augusta and graduated from Clemson with a degree in industrial engineering. She also has a master’s in business administration.
Upon graduation, she did a short internship at the Bi-Lo Center arena in Greenville.
"It was there that I fell in love with doing live events," White said. "Within two weeks of graduating Clemson, I moved to New York City specifically with the intent of getting a job at Madison Square Garden."
White worked at Madison Square Garden for eight years and then went on to freelance for promoters and producers in the industry.
"Most specifically, I began to focus on large-scale outdoor festivals and concerts," she said.
White's resume attests to her expertise.
She has served as site operations manager at The Great Googa Mooga festival in Brooklyn, New York; manager of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee; concert and event production manager for various events from January 2009 to June 2015 including Justin Bieber and the concert for Hurricane Sandy relief at Madison Square Garden.
White said all vendors will be required to use compostable service items that can be used by SuperSod for its Soil3 compost product. The company will also partner with SuperSod to harvest grass seed at the end of each season. The company says proceeds will go toward the Yonder Field Foundation to help the company contribute to the community.
Yonder Field also plans to have a community garden to help children learn about gardening and serve as a place where children will be able to grow fruits and vegetables and take them home to their families.
The company plans to have a family event each month where local farmers will be invited to enjoy a free concert as well as “family-friendly” activities.
It will also partner with the Gretsch Foundation Partnership to promote music education in local schools through the donation of instruments to university students.
Yonder Field also plans to have a raffle at each show for two VIP tickets for the next show. The raffle is expected to generate between $3,000 and $6,000 per show. Proceeds will go toward community organizations that may need the funds.