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Tragically Hip plan soothes worried neighbours

concert crowd shot












Source: Niagara Falls Review

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — Extra security will be in force, dozens of shuttle buses will transport visitors and the Shaw Festival will go dark for the night when Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts its largest-ever concert in two months.

Wary residents seemed relieved and even applauded organizers Wednesday night, after hearing a presentation about the logistics of the large event, expected to attract 20,000 concertgoers.

“This entire project is a work in progress,” said Vanessa Arscott, from production company AEG Live, which is bringing the Tragically Hip to Butler’s Barracks on June 30.

Arscott told about 60 people gathered at the Niagara-on-the-Lake community centre she’s been meeting with local experts twice a week to fine-tune all aspects of the event.

Key concerns raised by residents have related to parking, traffic congestion, safety and noise.

Traffic is one of the biggest challenges, given that it’s happening on the Canada Day weekend, Arscott said.

“There are a lot of other events going on. This is one of our biggest hurdles.”

She said Parks Canada is offering 2,500 VIP parking spots on 13.5 acres of land adjacent to the concert site. Promoters are also working with Niagara College, Brock University, the Niagara-on-the-Lake airport and farms close to the airport to secure parking.

The plan is to shuttle people from those remote areas to the bottom of the concert site near the parkway and avoid the downtown core of Niagara-on-the-Lake altogether.

The main roads affected by shuttle drop-offs, in preliminary plans, are John, King, Mary and Charlotte streets. Those streets will become no-parking zones for the day, except for residents. Residents will receive passes for a zone around the site, the radius of which is being determined.

But Arscott admitted organizers wouldn’t be able to control the number of drivers who come into town trying to find parking, despite the shuttle buses. The town has said all bylaw officers available will be working that weekend.

As for noise, Arscott said the stage will face the river. The band has an 11 p.m. curfew and all amplified sound will end at that time.

Shaw Festival will not stage a production on the night of June 30, so its patrons won’t be disturbed by traffic or noise.

AEG will hire a security company for all areas of the event, including parking on and off site, the stage area and main gates. Arscott said the company is working with Niagara Regional Police, OPP and Niagara Parks Police.

“We don’t end at our fence line at the commons,” she said, adding organizers want the community to feel safe and secure.

The promoter is also in discussions with Emergency Medical Services and the fire department to develop a crisis plan.

Preserving the historic site has also been taken into consideration, she said.

Arscott said the production company has staged events at Fort York in Toronto, and understands Butler’s Barracks is “not just a farmer’s field.” Every piece of equipment that goes on the site must meet approval by Parks Canada and fencing will be in place where needed.

Michael Schipper, with the Tragically Hip’s management company, said organizers are trying to create a respectful environment. Everyone involved is a stakeholder, he said.

“At the end of the day, we the artists have a responsibility to our fans, have a responsibility to the community and a responsibly to everybody we work with,” he said.

The Tragically Hip will be joined by bands Death Cab for Cutie, the New Pornographers and the Rural Alberta Advantage.

Arscott said about three-quarters of the tickets have been sold, with organizers expecting to sell all 20,000 tickets that are available.

After the meeting, Ron and Jan Ashenhurst of the tiny Park Court off John St. said they felt better after learning residents would receive parking passes for their streets.

“I’m cool with it,” Ron Ashenhurst said. “My concerns have been alleviated by what they said. We all feel more comfortable.”

Neighbour Lynda Hancock, who runs the bed and breakfast Ben Brae on the Park, said she also felt better about the parking situation for her guests.

“Glad I came and took some notes,” she said. “It will be a pleasant experience for the community.”

Diana Laubitz, who lives on John St. with husband Marek, across from Butler’s Barracks, said she felt better after having her que stions answered too.

She asked what would happen to birds nesting in long grass near the site. The issue had actually been discussed by organizers, who said they believed the birds were far enough away from the concert site but would look at blocking it off to pedestrians.

“I think it’s the best they can do,” Laubitz said after the meeting. “Obviously, it could be difficult to prevent every person from trespassing.”

Organizers said there have been no discussions about making the concert an annual event.

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