Despite complaints, Bangor Waterfront Concerts stage likely won’t move

The main stage at the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion in April.
The main stage at the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion in April.
Posted Nov. 14, 2011, at 10:51 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Though they acknowledged it won’t sit well with some who live within earshot of the Bangor Waterfront, city councilors agreed Monday night that it would not be fiscally wise to relocate the Waterfront Concert Series stage without first having a game plan in place.

To that end, councilors and administrators who met in a workshop on the matter decided to keep the stage where it it is for the 2012 concert season with a few modifications, including an expansion and some minor improvements.

One key reason behind the decision is that city officials have learned that the move would cost at least $600,000 — far more than the $125,000 the city budgeted — for the initial work alone. Another reason is that staff and several councilors believe much more planning needs to take place to ensure the project, if the city decides it can afford it, is done right the first time.

“For the interim if we can stay where we’re at — and we may have to make a few modifications to that site — that would give us a year and three months or so to develop a longer term agreement with Waterfront Concerts to develop real plans for turning the stage around and relocating that stage,” City Manager Cathy Conlow said during the workshop.

“But it does mean [breaking] a promise to residents that we would move that stage,” she said. Councilors asked that a meeting be held with residents to let them know why the stage won’t move.

In the meantime, city officials will continue to work toward a long-term agreement with Live Nation, represented in Maine by Alex Gray, and toward coming up with a site layout and project budget that make sense for the city, its residents, the promoter and concertgoers.

At issue are the noise complaints city officials have received from residents who live near the Bangor Waterfront in the two years since the concert series was launched.

Though measures aimed at keeping neighbors happy have been put into place, such as a curfew, the series continues to generate complaints. Besides the loudness of some shows, city officials have heard from residents and visitors appalled by raw language used by a few of the bands who have played the venue.

In an effort to restore a semblance of peace and quiet to summer nights in the city, officials came up with a reconfiguration plan for the waterfront that called for moving the massive concert stage downriver from Railroad Street toward Hollywood Slots and rotating the structure to face the opposite direction.

The move, they said, would free up property along Main Street and Railroad Street that the city is trying to market for development and provide a less obstructed view of the Penobscot River. It also would aim the stage and speakers away from the residential streets running uphill from Main Street. City officials set aside $150,000 to begin the work.

Since then, the city has learned that it could cost much more to meet the promoter’s needs, which ultimately would include an adequate electrical service, water and sewer, a paved access road and a structure for concessions, restrooms and showers, to name a few.

Councilor Charlie Longo said creating the venue could be a multimillion proposition. Given that, he said, it might be one that should go before voters.

Representatives of the city and the Waterfront Concert Series are slated to meet Wednesday to talk about a long-term agreement for use of the Bangor Waterfront.

Councilor Joe Baldacci said he would like to see the promoter’s financial information before a long-term deal is completed, especially since the city is being asked to invest in improvements in a time when it is hard-pressed to fund even basic operations.

“It’s a multimillion enterprise,” he said of the concert series. “The city should be getting hundreds of thousands of dollars out of this enterprise, not tens of thousands of dollars. … I think we need to be a more businesslike partner, that we do this in a businesslike environment and that we’re getting something out of it.”

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