Dehydrated fans pan Rockfest

Not allowed to bring in water, they waited in long lines until vendors sold out. Some left.

Published May 1, 2007

TAMPA - After 11 rock bands and 10 hours, concertgoers at the first 98 Rockfest likely weren't hungry for more music.

But on a day when temperatures flirted with 90 degrees and shade was at a premium, they were thirsty.

So they chanted for water.

They waited in lines for up to three hours for $3 bottles.

Sometime around 3 p.m. came the announcement: The concession stands were sold out of water.

"It defies all logic, " said 49-year-old James Walker, whose three teenagers went to Sunday's daylong festival, hosted by WXTB-FM 97.9.

What's worse, Walker said, organizers compromised the health and safety of 16, 000 estimated customers by prohibiting them from bringing their own bottled water into the festival, held this year on the grounds of Raymond James Stadium.

"You can't do that to a dog, but you're going to do this to human beings?" Walker said. "They should be held liable."

This year's one-day Rockfest replaced its predecessor, Livestock, where spectators could bring in their own water and refreshments during the three-day event in a small Pasco County pasture.

Rockfest fans were barred from entering with their own refreshments and were prohibited from re-entering the concert grounds - even when fetching water. "Once you're in the concert area, you're in, " warned the 98 Rock Web site.

Vending officials at the venue could not be reached for comment.

More than 250 people were treated for heat exhaustion, dehydration and alcohol intoxication during the event. Five people were taken to hospitals, said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Wade.

Help, in the form of hundreds of cases of bottled water, was on the way, said 98 Rock promotions director Mike Oliviero. "Once we saw the line of people waiting, we went and got 800 cases of water, " he said.

The bottled water was given away free until concession stands were able to take over, Oliviero said.

But for some, the damage had been done.

"Everyone was getting super, super dehydrated, " said Genavieve Lewis, 19, of Thonotosassa who paid more than $30 for her ticket but left five hours before headliners Hinder played their last note. Most of her time was spent waiting in line for water. "We had to get out of there."

Aniria Wilson, a 37-year-old mother of two, just went home. "I was disgusted with the whole situation."

Casey Cora can be reached at 813 226-3386 or at ccora@sptimes.com.