Island gets back on the entertainment map

A new venture is looking to amp up Mayo Island.

Locally-based Blue Marble Productions wants to liven up the sleepy 14-acre island with a series of music festivals beginning Oct. 19. Blue Marble owner Gratton Stephens said the company is shelling out $200,000 to get the property, which sits under the 14th Street Bridge, ready for the first event.

The initial concert – dubbed Country on Mayo – is the first of the planned Mayo Days event series, which Stephens hopes will attract people to the city.

“We’re trying to get people to come downtown that normally wouldn’t,” Stephens said. “Obviously if we’re doing a country concert, we want people from Chesterfield, Henrico, Goochland, New Kent and Hanover to come out.”

Stephens, a New Kent native, spent 25 years in Nashville, working in the country music business. His company leased Mayo Island from owner Fred Shaia and partnered with Richmond-based Lythos Studios to plan the festival. Local country music radio station K95 and Yuengling are sponsoring the event.

Aside from privately owned Wise Recycling and an industrial building rented by an art studio, Mayo has been largely unused for the past 10 years, Stephens said. But that wasn’t always the case.

(Click to enlarge)

A streetcar in the early 20th century advertises a game at Island Park, which later became Tate Field. (Virginia Historical Society, 2000.186.586.B)

Minor league baseball teams called the island home starting in the 1800s. In the 1920s, the Richmond Colts played on the island at Tate Field, named after a local slugger named Pops Tate. The ballpark burned down in 1941.

The island played host to a benefit show for Feed the Future in 1996 and a few Earth Day celebrations into the early 2000s but then lost its luster. More recently, nearby Brown’s Island and Pocahontas State Park have attracted the masses with music, food trucks and beer.

Stephens is looking to change Mayo’s fortunes but says he isn’t trying to compete with those venues.

“We are not trying to compete with what the city is doing down on Brown’s Island,” he said, referring to the well-established Friday Cheers concerts on Brown’s.

Blue Marble can host three events on the island each year without needing a special events permit from the city, Stephens said. He’s planning a rock show and a pop or jazz concert for 2014, he said.

The lineup is still being finalized, but Stephens said Country on Mayo will feature six acts, including Brett Eldredge, Angie Johnson and Old Dominion. Stephens said he wants to sell 5,000 to 7,000 tickets to the show, which is scheduled for Oct 19. Tickets are not yet available online, but they will cost $15 in advance and $20 at the gate, Stephens said. Pit ticket prices have not been determined, he said.

Parking will be available for $5 on the island. About 500 spaces are available. Organizers are working to secure more parking close to the island, he said.

With expenses including cleaning up the island, hiring security, booking artists and bringing in equipment and portable restrooms, Stephens said he just wants to break even – for now.

“We want to maintain the historical significance of the island, but, at some point, this needs to be an economically viable endeavor,” he said.

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I wish they would turn the island into Richmond’s next great park. Put a jogging track, bicycle trails, volleyball courts, and a soccer field on it and call it good to go!


“Blue Marble can host three events on the island each year without needing a special events permit from the city, Stephens said”

That sounds too good to be true. They might want to double and triple check that one.