March 27, 2019
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Bangor to put down stone at Waterfront Concerts venue after odor problems

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
City of Bangor crews work at the Darling's Waterfront Pavilion trucking away some of the soil and putting in extra drainage.

BANGOR, Maine — The waterlogged and smelly organic loam and the new grass laid over it this spring at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion have been removed and stone will be put down for this Friday’s country music concert.

“At this point, it looks like sod will not be an option in time for Friday night, so we will be topping the surface with a small round stone similar to what we used last week to alleviate the mud problem we were having,” Tracy Willette, director of parks and recreation for the city, said Wednesday in an email. “This will take us through Friday night’s event and we will re-group to assess what can be done in anticipation of next week’s Kenny Chesney show.”

The cost of the stone was not available Wednesday evening, he said.

New sod, which typically takes a couple of weeks to take root, is still an option for the future.

Thursday’s Lost Trailers performance will take place at Waterfront Park, next to the pavilion, and Friday’s concert featuring Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Kix Brooks is still on track for the main stage.

Crews from Gardner Construction, general contractor on the project, began scraping up the saturated sod, loam and dirt at the venue and trucking it away on Tuesday. They are expected to put down more drainage before laying down a new surface, Willette has said.

The estimated cost to remove the loam and sod is around $10,000, Willette said, adding that the money for the job is coming out of the turf management fund set up between the city and Waterfront Concerts, which allocates 25 cents per ticket to the grounds maintenance fund.

“That’s what that account is for,” City Manager Cathy Conlow said Wednesday.

“We’ve paid a lot into that account, planning for a rainy day,” Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray said.

Willette’s estimate does not include the cost for new sod, which Gray said cost around $33,000 to install earlier this year.

“We had to bring in sod and that came with a delivery charge,” he said Wednesday of the grass installed this spring.

Maine sod farmers do not have product for sale in May, when the rolled grass was laid, Gray said, but could provide the replacement sod if that is the direction the city and Waterfront Concerts organizers decide to take. That cost would be well below the delivered, out-of-state price, he said.

“At this point, $10,800 in turf management funds have been collected,” Willette said. “We’re at the midway point in the season, and there are some big acts still to perform.”

Both Willette and Conlow said replacing the sod likely would cause the account to break even or perhaps go into the red, depending on final project costs and final ticket sales funds collected by the end of the season.

“We’ll get a final answer at the end of the year,” Willette said.

As part of the agreement with Waterfront Concerts, the city, which owns the venue, also receives a $1-per-ticket fee that essentially serves as rent for the site.

Negotiations on a new contract between Gray and the city include an increase in the amount contributed to the turf account, Conlow said.

“He’s agreed to pay an additional 10 cents per ticket for sod,” she said. “It’s a partnership. He doesn’t want us to fail and we don’t want him to fail.”

That means 35 cents per ticket sold during 2014 would go into the turf management fund, the city manager said.

When Waterfront Concerts relocated this spring in preparation for the 2013 season, a natural loam with sod surface was installed to cover the seating area, but unusually heavy rainfall in June and July “overwhelmed the site,” according to Willette.

“I can’t do anything about Mother Nature,” Conlow said.

Maine saw one of the rainiest Junes in its recorded weather history, and the wet downpours continued into July.

The heavy rains soaked the 4 inches of loam and caused it to start to decompose, causing the smell, the city manager said. The odor was somewhat “unpleasant” but never “toxic or unsafe,” Willette said.

“The problems were organics in the loam,” Conlow said.

The stage is bigger and the venue shifted this year to face east, toward downtown, and features a 4 percent grade in the front seating area and an 8 percent grade in the general admission or lawn area to provide better viewing for patrons. Gray said the renovations cost millions of dollars with the city pitching in about $700,000.

“I think the venue has significantly improved over our last venue … but then we got hammered by a bunch of rain,” the city manager said.

Conlow said she detected the unpleasant turf odor herself when she took her children to a recent concert.

Gray said he first noticed a smell similar to “a barn” at the July 10 Daughtry and 3 Doors Down concert and shortly afterward he approached the city about his concerns.

“City government does not move at the same pace as the private sector,” the Waterfront Concerts promoter said.

The recent sunny weather, which is expected to last all week, has been perfect for the work being done at the venue, he said.

While the seating section grass renovation is underway this week, new permanent stairs that lead to the back section of the venue also have been added, as well as new signs and more backstage amenities for performers, Gray said. Permanent bathrooms and a roof are part of future plans for the site.

“Miranda has a great show planned, and when we get to Luke [Bryan on Aug. 31] people won’t even realize we were there [doing work],” he said.

BDN writer Nick McCrea contribute to this report.

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