BANGOR, Maine — Bangor officials are looking for a consultant to help shape the future of the city’s Waterfront Concerts amphitheater.
The city issued a request for qualifications Friday seeking engineering or architectural firms with expertise in designing outdoor concert facilities or other facilities that draw large crowds. That company would help the city and Waterfront Concerts form a “phased development plan” for the venue, which sits between the Penobscot River and Main Street.
“There’s growth there, so we’re going to partner with Waterfront Concerts in coming years to make enhancements to the site,” said Jason Bird, community and economic development officer for the city.
The venue has space for more than 15,000 patrons, depending on seating arrangements. If the concerts will be around for the long term, there should be some investment in more permanent, patron-friendly facilities, as well as room for expansion, according to Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray.
The RFQ document gives interested consultants several parameters within which to work. For example, the orientation and location for the stage are “already determined” because of the extensive work Waterfront Concerts and the city completed in 2013. That effort shifted the stage to face downtown Bangor in hopes of alleviating noise concerns in residential areas and created a slope to provide better views of the stage and absorb some of the sound.
However, the venue still doesn’t have any permanent structures and could use some improvement in other areas, ranging from lighting and concessions to fencing and backstage amenities.
Most notably, the consultant could help the city and Waterfront Concerts devise some sort of roof or awning to cover the stage and several sections of seats as a way to prevent sound from reaching the ears of Bangor residents not attending the concerts, Bird and Gray said.
Gray said an overhead structure is the only reliable way of mitigating noise. Concert sound levels have been a concern for many Bangor residents since the concerts debuted in 2010.
This season kicked off with a rash of more than 120 noise complaints during the hard-rock, all-day Rise Above Fest. The two most recent concerts — Brad Paisley and Dave Matthews Band — drew a total of just five complaints.
Another change in the venue may be the fencing. The chain-link fence backed by a blue tarp along Main Street has drawn criticism in the past. The city has held off replacing it this season because of work in progress along Main Street this summer. Later phases of the work on Main Street will widen the sidewalk on the side of the street where the venue is located. If a new fence were to have been installed in advance of this concert season, it would have needed to be torn down to make way for the wider sidewalk anyway, Gray said.
Bird said there also may be potential to expand the venue toward the railroad tracks or install benches or stadium seating on the hill to provide more seating opportunities and room for more patrons.
“We’ve been honest with the city from Day One that to be successful in the long term is to build a venue that has the amenities the average concert-goer in the region is looking for,” Gray said. “I don’t think anyone in particular likes [portable toilets].”
Bird said several of these improvements and upgrades could be scheduled to take place this fall or in advance of the 2015 concerts series, depending on funding.
The RFQ states the consulting contract will begin Aug. 1 with a full report due in November.
Proposals are due the afternoon of July 9. The cost of that contract would be dependent on the the experience level of the consultant and their projected expenses, according to Bird. Funding for the contract has been set aside in the city’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, which the council is expected to approve, with reductions, later this month.