After a barrage of cancellations swept through 2020 and bled into 2021, news of an in-person Austin City Limits Festival comeback may seem out of place. However, as the population inches toward herd immunity, it might not be so far off.
With possibly the most difficult year of the pandemic under our belts, here are a few reasons ACL could go on as scheduled in 2021.
1. ACL has been planning for the festival
An ACL spokesperson confirmed the planning of a fall in-person music festival to Austonia last week. Organizers have been promoting its 2021 dates since the same day it canceled the 2020 festival. While its social media accounts have been largely inactive, ACL's website is up-to-date on dates and times for the in-person festival.
2. Live Nation's CEO is confident in festivals returning
ACL is put on by Austin-based event management company C3 Presents, which is owned by Live Nation, a global entertainment company that puts on festivals around the world. During an investor call on Thursday, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said he is optimistic about the return of summer festivals this year. Citing 170,000 tickets that had been sold for three different music festivals in the United Kingdom, where the government recently ruled that large live music events can return at full capacity on June 21, Rapino said he thinks the U.S. could be on the same timeline. Festivals could start as early as midsummer if states can up their business capacity to 75%, Rapino said.
With more artists than ever wanting to tour and fans eager to make up for lost time, all signs point to even more concerts ahead. Thank you to all of our @LiveNation employees for their endless resilience and creativity – none of this would be possible without you pic.twitter.com/gdiapVYSyk
— Michael Rapino (@Michael_Rapino) February 25, 2021
3. "Everyone who wants a COVID vaccine will have had one"
Rapino said that by mid-summer, COVID-19 vaccines are projected to be available to the general public and believes outdoor events will be a preferable interaction since they are open-air. Some have suggested events as large as festivals should only be an option for people who have received and have proof of getting the vaccine.
"For both the U.S. and U.K., projections indicate that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by May or June, and Europe and most other markets following a few months later," Rapino said. "Given the mass social and economic toll the lockdown has put on the public, we believe there will be strong momentum to reopen society swiftly as soon as vaccines are readily available, and we believe outdoor activity will be the first to happen. So while the timing of returning to live will continue to vary across global markets, every sign points to beginning safely in many countries sometime this summer and scaling further from there."
Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that more widespread distribution will begin by the end of this month. While the vaccine process has been nothing short of a mess, Austin's vaccine allocation is on the up and up, as this week's allocation jumped up 50%.
With the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot, The Texas Department of State Health Services will receive an additional 200,000 doses next week. As of Feb. 22, Austin had received 233,515 doses of the vaccine, but this week alone, the city will receive a 46,540 dose shipment. Plus, Moderna and Pfizer are ramping up production with the intention of delivering 300 million doses each by July. The state health department estimates that vaccines will be available to the general public this spring.
4. Cases are on a national decline
Although the U.S. is coming out of a massive spike that started around October, cases have been on a steady decline nationally since mid-January. Travis County has followed the same trend. Even though COVID-19 is still not under control, with a vaccine available and the worst spike behind us...
5. Tours are being planned
Austin-based musician Jackie Venson told Austonia last week that she had been vaccinated through a volunteer program, which meant she was finally ready to get back on the road and retry a tour that had been canceled in 2020. Artists all over the world are rescheduling international tours that were called off in 2020, including The Weeknd, Tame Impala, Harry Styles, Russ and Maroon 5. Some even have shows scheduled in Central Texas, months before ACL is even scheduled to begin.
This summer we were excited to be bringing Love On Tour to North America. However, due to the ongoing threat from Covid-19 we have been forced to reschedule these dates to next summer. pic.twitter.com/EqSlr6HmBb
— Harry Styles. (@Harry_Styles) June 10, 2020
6. Festivals are being planned
ACL is not the only festival that plans to reignite in 2021. While major spring festivals like South by Southwest, California's Coachella and UK's Glastonbury have been canceled for the second year in a row, other festivals later in the year have managed to skirt the issue by waiting. Although Dr. Anthony Fauci does not recommend easing up restrictions until the time is right, he said large gatherings should be safe to resume once the U.S. nears herd immunity—after 70-85% of people are vaccinated or have already recovered from the virus—which he predicted would be this fall last month.
Festivals like The Governor's Ball and Bonnaroo—New York City and Manchester, Tennessee, festivals that usually kick off June—have been postponed until September. On the local front, JMBLYA said it is planning 2021's festival and UTOPiAfest is already selling tickets for an October festival.
7. We really, really need it
After a year when no one thought things could get any worse, Texans have already been through the wringer with statewide political protests and the winter storm of the century that left millions without necessities.
Austin became the Live Music Capital of the World by playing live music and residents have certainly missed its presence. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our lives from a physical and mental standpoint and while no Austinite wants to see anyone get hurt by a music festival that is supposed to bring joy to the city, going another year ACL-free just doesn't feel right.
Logistically, planning an international festival after a global pandemic is a challenge in and of itself. Some have talked about providing proof of a vaccine to enter, setting tents six feet apart or cutting the attendance lower to make the event a real possibility. For now, seven months away from the two-week fest, ACL is definitely a possibility.
- Austin sees rent drop amid COVID, a rare boon to tenants - austonia ›
- Austin City Limits is holding in-person festival this year - austonia ›
- Austin City Limits is holding in-person festival in 2021 - austonia ›
- ACL tickets go on sale May 20 - austonia ›
- ACL lineup by day and tickets on sale - austonia ›
- Some Austinites want ACL Festival out of Zilker Park - austonia ›
- ACL debuts 11 new additions ahead of 2021 festival - austonia ›
- Local group petitions festival to cancel for the second year - austonia ›
A $500 million mixed-use development spanning 1,400 acres is coming to Southeast Austin, near Tesla’s headquarters at Giga Texas.
Plans for the development by Houston-based real estate firm Hines include 2,500 houses along with multi-family and townhomes, and commercial land. Hines is partnering with Trez Capital, Sumitomo Forestry and Texas-based Caravel Ventures.
The development, which is known as Mirador, will be located off the 130 Toll and Highway 71, which the developers say provides easy access to the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack and other Austin attractions like restaurants, parks and live music venues.
Hines also boasts amenities like a 60-acre lake, over 600 acres of greenbelt, community parks, trails and a swimming pool.
“As Austin continues to grow into the tech epicenter of Texas, coupled with a supply-constrained market, the demand for new housing is at its highest,” Dustin Davidson, managing director at Hines, said. “Mirador will be critical in providing more options for Austin’s growing population and we are excited to work alongside our partners given they each provide a unique and valued perspective in single-family development.”
The local housing market has been hot in recent years, with home sales accelerating earlier in the pandemic. In July 2021, the Austin metro area hit its pricing peak at $478,000. As Austonia previously reported, the area has been expected to see the Tesla effect, with the new workforce driving up demand for housing and other services.
The single-family houses are expected to be developed over the course of six years, in phases. Construction on the homes is expected to start this year and home sales will begin in 2023.
- Real Estate - austonia ›
- Luxury real estate to get special tax status under 'blight' statute in ... ›
- Austin sees record-breaking real estate year in 2021 - austonia ›
- What billionaires like Elon Musk look for in Austin real estate - austonia ›
- Austin luxury real estate market booms in pandemic - austonia ›
- What $10 million (or more) can get you in Austin real estate right now ›
- Austin's housing market is hot, but buyers feel burned out - austonia ›
- Fall breeze begins cooling Austin housing market ›
Editor's note: This story summarizes Sports Illustrated's story detailing Michael Center's involvement in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, based on interviews with SI's Jon Wertheim. Additionally, Austonia received comments from Michael Center, included in this story.
Confined to his couch, former Longhorns tennis coach Michael Center praised his players via FaceTime after the program he built produced the Longhorns’ first national championship in 2019—a bittersweet moment as Center faced federal charges as part of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal.
His name dragged through the mud, Center was fired, arrested by the FBI and sentenced to six months in a Central Texas federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges related to mail fraud. And over a year after his release, Center told Sports Illustrated he doubts he was the only one in burnt orange involved.
When the Varsity Blues scandal broke out to the public in 2019, the investigation was a perfect storm for nationwide attention: Hollywood glamour, blue blood conspiracy and faith in the tried-and-true American education system came to a head as 33 movie stars and other elites were found guilty of paying more than $25 million to pave their children’s way into eight colleges, including the University of Texas.
UT was one of eight schools caught in the college admissions scandal. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The figure behind Varsity Blues, “college consultant” Rick Singer, would plead guilty to four felony counts for faking SAT scores and bribing coaches at prominent universities for his elite clients—but not before throwing Center under the bus.
Singer's client, private equity executive Chris Schaepe, was looking for a way to bend UT's tight admissions policies for his son, who was seeking a position oddly as a manager on UT’s basketball team. Through a middleman, Singer contacted Center, who eventually agreed.
Schaepe's son hadn't played tennis since his freshman year of high school. It was a detail that Center says passed through plenty of hands before he was admitted, including "academic support staff, the compliance office, the sports supervisor and, ultimately, the athletic director," SI's Jon Wertheim writes.
No one in the entire athletic department, including seven "risk management and compliant services department" employees, was named, implicated or punished. After an internal investigation, Center was the only one named in the Varsity Blues "subterfuge" in a September 2019 UT news release signed by the university president.
He told Austonia he was never contacted by the university during the investigation, and when the NCAA interviewed him for its investigation, he says it cleared him of any violations.
“I almost fell out of my chair,” Center said. “I literally couldn’t breathe. There’s no college coach in America—much less at a state school, much less a coach of a nonrevenue sport—who can admit an athlete without consulting other people in the athletic department. What they were asking people to believe, it’s just impossible.” SI said Center's assertion was backed by multiple UT coaches and administrators at other schools.But why would the Forty Acres be complicit?
Center said UT’s then newly named athletic director Steve Patterson made clear that Center suddenly was responsible for more than building a successful tennis program. He was to be a "fundraiser first and coach second" and he would need to find donors to fund a new tennis facility. Patterson admitted to SI that he wanted his coaches to find donors and said the department was "$15 million in the red" when he started in 2013, though he denies any knowledge of the false tennis recruitment.
Center said he knew he would be "considered a team player" if he let in the son of a Silicon Valley magnate. And sure enough, Schaepe immediately began pulling out his wallet, donating $100,000 to UT tennis and a six-figure check to the school's communication program.
"I never entered this as a way to profit. This was a fundraising mission where I made a terrible mistake at the end,"
Months after Schaepe's son was admitted, Center agreed to meet Singer at the Austin airport and found himself accepting a backpack filled with $60,000 in cash meant for him, personally. He said he immediately knew he had made a mistake. He told SI “I put the money in my basement and gave most of it away.”
“Why did I do it?” Center told Sports Illustrated. "I go to bed and wake up each day asking myself the same question. I had to convince myself that I somehow deserved the money."
Once in court, Center showed texts with UT's compliance official and mentioned Chris Plonsky, a department executive involved in "overseeing men’s tennis, compliance, academic support (which generates letters of intent) and the Longhorn Foundation," according to SI.
“I knew I had to answer for my guilt,” Center said. “But I was like, 'Man, schools are going to get hammered.'"'
INMATE 77806-112 but out on Sunday: Actor Felicity Huffman in prison uniform outside low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin to visit actor husband William H. Macy & their daughter. Huffman admitted to paying $15K to have fixer boost daughter’s SAT score. 📸: @TMZ pic.twitter.com/9jALmqnA0U
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) October 21, 2019
But Center was the only Longhorn to go down for the crimes. “I was no rogue actor,” Center said. “And this wasn’t my word against their word. There were signatures that went along with it. That’s the system... There wasn’t one point in the process where I thought people wanted to learn the whole truth.”
Back at home in Austin, Center watched as actress Felicity Huffman served just eleven days for her part in the scandal. Some served up to five months; others simply paid a fine, and others, like Singer, await sentencing.
And because the prosecution chose to blame individual coaches, framing schools as victims in the case, universities like UT have received less than a slap on the wrist for their possible involvement.
“I was always taught that actions have consequences,” Center said. “What I’ve come to realize is that, yes, for some people actions absolutely do have consequences. Serious, heavy ones. For others, actions can have no consequences at all.”
- Excitement, tensions build as Austin expects 18k fans at first Texas ... ›
- $10 million Austin NIL scholarship fund to help Longhorn athletes ... ›
- UT plans on Longhorns football in fall 2020 - austonia ›
- UT is going SEC! Texas board of regents approves move to future ... ›
- Former UT tennis coach Michael Center in halfway house after ... ›
- Former UT tennis coach Michael Center completes 6-month ... ›