It was supposed to be the grand return of Rockingham Speedway which once hosted racing on the grandest stages and after reopening briefly in 2012 and 2013 for NASCAR truck series racing the speedway once again closed. For years the speedway languished in default of loans, bank repossessions and auction.
Eventually a buyer was announced for the speedway when Rockingham Properties LLC. a group headed by Dan Lovenheim from Raleigh, NC announced they had purchased the property with intentions to renovate the facility and host events.
Early on few details of what would happen with the facility when the new owners declined to say if they would seek NASCAR racing at the historic facility.
Instead they announced they would seek out alternate events and model the track after the Electric Daisy Carnival. Events that would see the track used on a more frequent basis. When Rockingham and Danny Wimmer Presents the promoters of the former Carolina Rebellion that was located at one time in Rockingham before moving to Charlotte announced they would once again bring large scale events back to Rockingham with a newly named Epicenter Festival.
One that could see hundreds of thousands of fans descend on the grounds of the former speedway and the dragstrip across the street where ultimately the festival would be held. When announced that Epicenter would see bands such as Rob Zombie, Korn, Tool, Foo Fighters and dozens of others returning to the original site of the festival a buzz both within the NASCAR fan base that would see the track return to operations and music fans around the world that a newly named festival would return to Rockingham alike.
However the buzz lasted till the first night of the event when it turned to frustration by festival goers that sat in traffic for as many as three to four hours trying to get into the parking lots that has a single gate open per many on social media expressing frustration with the track and festival organizers.
Many of those who sat in traffic missed many of the bands that had been billed for the first day including many who eventually gave up and left before reaching the parking lots. Tickets of the festival day passes went for as much as $80 for general admission to VIP passes that went for $250 for a single day all the way to $400 to $475 for a three-day weekend pass.
Further frustration by fans of the festival when single day pass holders were offered the chance to return for $1.
Parking for the weekend could be as much as $15 per day or $40 for a weekend.
Festival goers were faced with little to no security or lighting in the day parking lots on the grounds of Rockingham Speedway which also hosted the camping facilities for the weekend. Photos of the parking lots on social media found lines attempting to merge into a single lane to get out. In one case an unknown festival goer broke down a fence and gate in the parking lots to provide an addition exit.
"It was like caged animals," Elizabeth Brown of Raleigh who was there with her husband and friends.
When describing the parking they said they sat in traffic for nearly three hours to move just about six miles.
“We got to our car at 11:10 p.m. and we did not move from that parking spot until 3 a.m.,” Ethan Brown said.
When the festival resumed on Saturday with a threat of weather both festival organizers, NCDOT and the highway patrol all looked to open more lanes and get people into the grounds.
Weather in the area late in the afternoon saw strong storms roll through in which festival organizers evacuated the grounds for safety.
Due to severe weather approaching the festival, we must evacuate the venue to keep everyone safe. Please follow Instructions of staff + local law enforcement to exit the venue and return to your vehicles in a safe, calm, and orderly fashion. pic.twitter.com/0JDkv48TQZ— EPICENTER FESTIVAL (@epicenterfest) May 11, 2019
#EpicenterFestival so yeah, this is what an extremely disorganized emergency evacuation looks like. Literally didn't get to see anyone perform yesterday. Mom was really excited for bush, dad was excited for tool. Saw nothing. pic.twitter.com/3eTpdrDw5s— k0oLKiD69 (@Acoustic_patrol) May 12, 2019
While organizers waited for the weather to pass festival goers were asked to wait out in their cars and not attempt to leave.
The highway patrol asks that you please remain stationery in your vehicles.— EPICENTER FESTIVAL (@epicenterfest) May 11, 2019
For the safety of all fans, do not attempt to drive away. pic.twitter.com/QBbaVxu7CD
Hours later Richmond County officials announced that due to safety and further traffic concerns along with more impending weather the second night of the Epicenter Festival would be closed.
Please understand that this is a difficult decision and we know how excited each of you were.— EPICENTER FESTIVAL (@epicenterfest) May 12, 2019
Doors will open at 12PM tomorrow.
Further information for ticket buyers will be emailed as soon as possible. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/UDqr7xfwQW
As festival goers went to exit for the night frustrations once again boiled over with hours of waiting in the parking lots with no movement. Many on site started trending the hashtag #EpicenterParkingDisaster on social media.
Nearly two hours after the event was closed for the night at least one post on Twitter showed a fan has moved 0.1 miles.
Two hours and I moved 0.1 mile (I shut off the engineso I won't get borad). Just one mile left. Thank you @epicenterfest for an EPIC disaster #EpicenterParkingDisaster #epicenter #EpicenterFestival #Epic pic.twitter.com/LScRQ8aCbK— The Transposon PostDoc (@noamelevi) May 12, 2019
The third day of the Epicenter Festival will reopen today with Foo Fighters closing out the event.
Editors Note: Speedway Digest has reached out to Rockingham Properties LLC. the owners of Rockingham Speedway for a statement.
Editors Note Update: Rockingham Properties LLC. declined to comment for the article instead directing us to the concert promoter.