June 24, 2018
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New groundwork at Waterfront Concerts venue holds up well during all-day rainstorm

Brian Feulner | BDN
Brian Feulner | BDN
Construction crews make improvements to the concert grounds at Darling's Waterfront Pavilion on Aug. 1 in Bangor after complaints of a foul smell coming from the organic loam underneath the grass.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The city’s new groundwork for the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion weathered a major test Friday, holding up well against more than 1½ inches of sometimes heavy rain that fell on Bangor, a city official said Saturday.

Bangor Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette said he walked the Waterfront Concerts site toward the end of the all-day rainstorm to see how the site’s upgraded drainage performed.

“It handled it quite well,” Willette said. “The changes we made seem to have worked.”

Extremely wet summer months in June and July wreaked havoc on the Waterfront Concerts grounds. June was one of the wettest months in Maine’s recorded weather history and took organizers by surprise, Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray has said.

The heavy, frequent rainfall saturated the turf at the site. The odor came from the “organic composition of the loam and sod,” and was “unpleasant” but never unsafe, Willette has said.

Willette said Friday that there was nothing unusual about the sod, which wasn’t any different from the turf the city uses at other sites, according to Willette.

When Waterfront Concerts relocated this spring in preparation for the 2013 season, a natural sod surface was installed in seating areas. The newly sloped ground was expected to allow water to flow toward the stage, which had a network of drainage pipes underneath, and porous pavement was expected to catch some runoff, according to Willette.

Garrison Keillor, host and writer of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” joked about the odor during his Waterfront Concerts appearance in late July. City and concert officials also began fielding smell complaints.

After that show, the city rushed to remedy the odor and drainage issues before the Aug. 2 Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Kix Brooks concert. Crews scraped up the turf and topsoil and laid down four drainage lines across the site to better allow water to flow off the venue.

In place of the turf, crews laid down pea stone, or small rounded rocks. Willette said the city will stick with the rocks for the remainder of the Waterfront Concerts season. The city and Waterfront Concerts might discuss whether to try turf again next season, according to Willette.

“But no one wants to see a repeat of the issues we had this summer,” he said.

Willette said the final costs of the project are still being tallied, but the bill is expected to be about $10,000. That money will come from a “turf management fund,” which is funded through a 25-cent fee added onto each concert ticket sold. Willette said the turf fund will begin to grow again with the concerts remaining this year.

Since the changes to the venue, Willette said he hasn’t heard of any odor complaints made to the city or concert organizers.

In other news, a city committee made up of city councilors, residents and city staff met for the first time last week. The committee was formed by the City Council in response to noise complaints called or emailed in during this year’s Waterfront Concerts.

The Mayhem Festival heavy metal show drew 24 noise complaints, but that was the most of any show this season. Some residents and neighborhoods have called in complaints for multiple shows this year.

The committee will create a report for the council about how some of the noise concerns might be resolved by Oct. 31, according to Willette.

“Although we recognize that concert sound cannot be eliminated, the purpose of this committee is to investigate possible options to mitigate the sound,” the committee’s mission statement says. That will include looking into the feasibility of structures or infrastructure that might mitigate sound.

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