PORTLAND, Maine — A newly announced show next month by country music star Dierks Bentley will highlight a summer concert series at Portland’s Maine State Pier.
The Portland City Council on Monday night unanimously gave the Bangor-based Waterfront Concerts the green light to schedule other shows at the high-profile location during the upcoming summer season as well, a step that will allow the promoter to book acts quickly without having to return each time for council approval.
Over the past several years, Waterfront Concerts has established Bangor as the go-to spot in Maine for the music industry’s biggest acts, developing its Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion into a 16,000-person outdoor spot and Maine’s only venue with enough capacity to host superstars such as Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Dave Matthews Band — all performing there this year.
The Maine State Pier, which could seat about 3,000 people, couldn’t compete with Bangor for the industry’s top draws. But the larger population base in the area, combined with Waterfront Concerts’ proven ability to land big names, could make the site an attractive tour spot as well.
Bentley, who performed in Bangor with country chart topper Miranda Lambert last summer, will take the Maine State Pier stage on June 12.
Portland has multiple indoor concert venues, the largest of which is the 6,800-seat Cumberland County Civic Center.
Portlanders got a taste of the festival-style outdoor concert scene with the 2012 conversion of the Eastern Promenade into a venue for hit folk-rock band Mumford & Sons, which attracted nearly 16,000 people to the site.
Other plans for outdoor venues in the area that could host more regular shows of that heft remain on the horizon, but as yet unfulfilled. South Portland officials have discussed helping develop a 10,000-seat concert site near Bug Light Park, and an amphitheatre may be included in the $100 million proposed development of Portland’s Thompson’s Point peninsula.
In 2012, Waterfront Concerts itself dipped its toe in the market with an agreement to organize a small slate of summer concerts at Scarborough Downs.
The upcoming concert series represents the latest in a flurry of activity for the Maine State Pier in recent years. The city of Portland signed lease deals for two companies to move to or expand on the pier last summer.
The approximately 90-year-old, city-owned pier was the focus of two competing large-scale redevelopment proposals in 2007, with developers Ocean Properties and The Olympia Cos. each pushing $100 million projects including hotels, office buildings and public space at the site. The city’s first choice to proceed, The Olympia Cos. backed out after a dispute emerged over whether the city or state retained legal control over the submerged land underneath the pier.
By early 2009, Ocean Properties also walked away in the face of the burgeoning recession and resultant market drop-off.
During the city’s 15-candidate 2011 mayoral campaign, the lack of progress at the Maine State Pier was considered fertile ground for debate among candidates over the direction of the city moving forward.
Under arrangements approved by the council Monday, no alcohol will be served on city property outside a cordoned-off beer garden area, and music will be restricted to between 6:30 and 9 p.m.