Study recommended for Metro Park event alternatives

Concert promoters not interested in other venues

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

Ongoing discussions involving the future of mega concert events at Metropolitan Park appear to be on their own version of a summer road trip, with ideas traveling west from Cecil Commerce Center, to a potential new facility on the Northside, south to St. Augustine and back to the concert promoter’s dream destination – Metropolitan Park, which remains both at the center of town and center of controversy.

In order to address promoters who want to schedule 2014 events, District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer is working with Paige Johnston at the Office of the General Counsel to prepare legislation that maps standards on decibel levels, the number and location of temporary stages, operating hours and fees for lease contracts.

District 4 Councilman Don Redman, who represents St. Nicholas and South Shores neighbors most affected by the noise from Metropolitan Park, suggested one possible solution is to move outdoor concerts to the Equestrian Center on the City’s Westside. According to the minutes from the June Metropolitan and Urban Parks Ad Hoc Committee meeting, Redman said this would address previous concerns that have surfaced during the budget process of closing the Equestrian Center due to lack of its use, noting that hotels and amenities would follow the concerts.

But records show that District 13 Councilman Bill Gulliford said he would prefer to see a new outdoor concert facility constructed near the airport because the infrastructure of necessary hotels, restaurants and shopping already exists.

Mike Yokan, a concert promoter who attended the meeting, said that he has unsuccessfully looked for an appropriate spot on the Northside for 10 years. “The current mayor is focused on bringing events downtown. We are not interested in moving Welcome to Rockville away from Metropolitan Park. That would be like bringing One Spark to the airport or Equestrian Center,” Yokan said. “Why would you ask people to travel to an out of the way space?”

While Tonisha Gaines, Special Events Manager for the City of Jacksonville, told the committee that Metropolitan Park is already receiving calls about possible 2014 events, talks traveled to the success of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. It was mentioned how St. Johns County is an active participant in attracting business to its amphitheater and shares in its profits.
Councilwoman Boyer thinks that before another venue is constructed which would compete with existing city facilities such as the Veterans Memorial Arena and the Times-Union Center, a study should be conducted. She asked for an item to be added to the next meeting’s agenda asking the Parks and Recreation Department to look into alternative places for events.
Meanwhile, an update on Councilwoman Boyer’s website said that she is preparing legislation which will provide guidance for staff negotiating future event contracts that will allow bookings to proceed on a short-term basis. One of the recommendations includes limiting the dBA at the soundboard to 105 and limiting lower octave bands that are responsible for the noise vibrations.

“This park is a gem, it provides expansive waterfront access, and it is underutilized and under-developed at the moment,” Councilwoman Boyer wrote. “It could be so much more.”
With so many alternative routes mapped, it remains unclear which direction the issue of noise traveling from Metropolitan Park to surrounding neighborhoods will go before a resolution reaches its final destination.

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