Insurance issue blocks license for Bulldog Bash

A permit needed for the annual Bulldog Bash to be held in Starkville is pending as city officials and the Mississippi State University Student Union negotiate how to handle liability insurance for the special event.

Bulldog Bash, held annually in the fall, is the largest free outdoor concert in the state, attracting former headliners such as T-Pain, DNCE and Eric Church. For the past few years, the party has been held in downtown Starkville.

MSU’s student body submitted a special event request for Bulldog Bash earlier this month, but withdrew it after discussions that the city and student body should purchase separate liability insurance to hold the event within the city limits.

In years past, MSUSA has included the city as an additional insured on its policy, exempting the city from the need to carry its own event insurance. However, the university now maintains that it can no longer do so under the rules of state higher education institutions.

Event insurance ensures that the city is fully protected in the event of a lawsuit. Under state law, the city is inherently insured up to $500,000. But, if an accident occurs and the city is found liable beyond the amount covered by the state, additional event insurance would kick in and the city would still be covered. Mayor Lynn Spruill said additional event insurance is between $6,000 and $11,000, depending on the city’s experience.

That cost, city officials said, will somehow be determined by the law that MSUSA reserves for the Bulldog Bash title, which has yet to be determined.

According to Sid Salter, director of communications at MSU, international humanitarian law policy prohibits the university from carrying insurance when another entity is listed as separately insured.

When asked why this is an issue now when it hasn’t been in the past, the university declined to comment due to ongoing discussions with the city.

Currently, the city is in discussions with MSU’s legal department about reimbursing the city for the cost of additional event insurance, Spruill said.

“We went in another direction asking their legal staff what the policy would be in regards to having the city reimbursed for our city coverage costs through a separate insurance policy and we are awaiting that response,” a she declared.

Provided MSUSA submits another special events application, either the university should agree to reimburse the city for the additional insurance, or the board of aldermen should agree to purchase it outright. Otherwise, Bulldog Bash will not take place in the city.

Spruill expects the issue to be resolved one way or another within the next month.

The city has historically allowed the MSUSA to throw Bulldog Bash downtown or in the Cotton District and generally provides in-kind services for things like cleanup and police presence.

Additionally, the Mississippi State University Student Association uses a significant portion of its 2% food and beverage tax revenue collected from businesses in the city. That amount this year is likely around $475,000, Spruill said.

This isn’t the first time Bulldog Bash being held in Starkville has been in danger. In 2016MSUSA announced that Bulldog Bash would not take place in the Cotton District, citing issues with local development and business owners, although that decision was later reversed.

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