Ballpark site for Israel fest a real steal

Hey, we like Yerba Buena Gardens. But we also like going to an Israel festival that doesn’t have so many people crammed into a tight space that we’re reminded of our morning commute.

That’s one of the big reasons we think the S.F.-based JCF’s snagging of SBC Park as the new home of its “Israel in the Ballpark” festival was a brilliant move.

It’s a likely bet that thousands who wouldn’t have otherwise made the trip for a San Francisco festival will jump at the chance to set foot on the green grass of a major league park — which we encourage you not to do during Giants games.

In addition to being a true baseball cathedral, SBC is, not insignificantly, a venue equipped with its own food stands, parking lots, a MUNI stop and a Coke bottle with a slide in it for kids (or adults who like sliding). A number of Bay Area residents would probably head to SBC just to watch the grass grow, and if there’s a tremendous all-day Israel fest, so much the better.

The Jewish Community Federation is promising a bigger, more intense festival than ever before on Sunday, June 6, with more activities, including a young adult after-party. It anticipates 17,000 or more will crank through SBC’s turnstiles. And with the gem at McCovey Cove as your home base, these big plans sound feasible.

In addition to being a nationally recognized location, SBC Park offers numerous advantages over previous Israel festival sites. Yerba Buena Gardens was, as noted earlier, not quite big enough. And Stern Grove was the living embodiment of the line often attributed to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” In tech terms, this is a major upgrade.

Renting out a major league ballpark does not come cheap, however. Obtaining the park for a day will cost $50,000, up from Yerba Buena Gardens’ $10,000 fee. The realities of creating the biggest Israel fest this town has ever seen — with a “massive PR” campaign, advertising and more complicated logistics — will also require more money.

As a result, the JCF has discussed the possibility of a “nominal” admission fee of around $5 for those older than 13 or so. That’s not a lot of money for an all-day party, but let’s hope that some of the corporate sponsors the federation is pursuing will come through so costs will be kept down.

Between money and logistics, a move like this is not a risk-free proposition. The bigger things get, the more things can go wrong. But we think it was an inspired move, and are betting it’ll succeed.

It’s a chance to make a good festival into a great one. It’s a chance to reach people who would never have otherwise thought of coming. And it’s an amazing venue that makes previous sites look like Candlestick Park.