The news that Party in the Park attendance dropped 40 percent
last summer was disappointing, but not surprising.
Party in the Park-ing Lot doesn’t have a park-like feel. Penned-in concert-goers listen to music on hot asphalt while surrounded by portable toilets. The Freddie-Sue Bridge is a beautiful backdrop, but that’s where the ambiance ends.
Bad weather and a $2 admission charge also didn’t help.
City spokesman Gary Walker, who is also in charge of events, would love a new venue. Finding one is not so easy. The city needs a space that can accommodate up to 10,000 people. Fifteen thousand would be ideal. Think about the quality acts that could be booked with that kind of crowd-capacity.
Let’s consider the options:
• Manhattan Square Park –The concerts were moved from the park because it underwent renovations. It’s now considered too small. The park remains the most popular venue among Party in the Park fans.
• High Falls – Another former Party in the Park venue, it is considered too small. Some of the concerts were so crowded, people were turned away at the gate.
• Brown Square Park – The city study turning this into a festival site, but it was deemed too small.
• Midtown – Given the criteria, it’s too small.
• Outside of downtown - This would defeat the entire purpose of the event. People can walk to the concerts after work and grab dinner and a beer after. The intent of this series is to bring people downtown.
The city would like to build an actual festival site, downtown complete with an amphitheater and bathrooms. Before spending that kind of money, the city wants to make sure the sites are not in demand by developers who want to build offices or condos. Believe it or not, there are few of those sites left in the center city.
Walker said filling in the Inner Loop may create land opportunities. He envisions something like the Molson Canadian Amphitheater in Toronto or Constellation Brands Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC). He said that type of outdoor facility could be an economic development tool.
In the meantime, we’ll be jamming in the parking lot.
Speaking of cramped spaces for festivals, the city is expanding the Jazz festival onto East Main Street this year. Vendors may be moved off of Gibbs to Main. The festival is getting way too crowded
. Walker said shutting down East Ave. was not an option, because of the huge apartment building. East Main also poses challenges, but is the better option, he said. Eventually, the festival could expand on the Midtown site.