PORTLAND – The city made a $54,000 profit by allowing the British folk rock band Mumford & Sons and seven other nationally known bands to use the Eastern Promenade for an outdoor concert last month.

The daylong “Gentlemen of the Road Stopover” festival, which drew more than 15,000 people to Munjoy Hill on Aug. 4, went smoothly, but some residents questioned the wisdom of giving up a public park to a private entity and then using that event to make a profit.

City officials met with Munjoy Hill residents Tuesday night at the East End Community School to review the event and figure out ways that it could have been handled better.

Residents cautioned officials about allowing another band with such a worldwide following — 12,500 tickets sold out in 25 minutes — to use the Eastern Promenade as a concert venue. They said a group’s musical genre should be a major consideration.

Though the crowd that attended the Mumford & Sons concert was described as “mellow,” residents said another band’s fans might not be as calm.

“If it had been a Megadeth concert, it would not have been such a success,” said Diane Davison, president of the Friends of the Eastern Promenade. Megadeth is a heavy metal band based in Los Angeles.

Mumford & Sons is a Grammy-nominated British folk rock band that has become wildly popular over the past few years. The band chose Portland largely because of its ocean views, the city’s history and its lively music scene.

Between the concert setup, the performances and the trash cleanup, city officials said, a large section of the Eastern Promenade was closed to public use from Aug. 1 through Aug. 5.

In the process, the city turned a sizable profit, said Andy Downs, Portland’s director of public assemblies and facilities.

Downs said the city collected nearly $54,000 from park use fees, food and beverage revenue, and new equipment.

The State Theatre, which promoted the concert, will buy six solar-powered “big belly” trash compactors, valued at a total of $25,000. The compactors will be given to the city, which will use them on Munjoy Hill.

Downs said the city was also reimbursed $63,000 for its expenses — trash collection and police coverage.

Downs said only one altercation occurred during the event — a scuffle broke out after someone tried to cut in line — but police did not arrest anyone.

Dave Mathieu, who lives on Munjoy Hill, said the bigger issue is whether the city will allow more concerts on the Eastern Promenade and, if it does, what the economic benefits will be to the city and its businesses.

“I can handle one or two concerts of this size a year. I’d just have to suck it up. But I’d have a problem using the Prom as a commercial concert venue,” Mathieu said.

Another Portland resident, Jay York, said that if the city is going to rent public space for profit, it must justify it through an economic impact analysis — something city officials didn’t do after last month’s concert.

Mayor Michael Brennan said about the only thing he would do differently, if another group wanted to perform on the Eastern Promenade, would be to try to give residents more advance warning.

Unlike the Fourth of July celebration, which takes about a year to plan, the Mumford & Sons concert came together in a few months.

“In this particular case, I thought it was a good use of a public asset,” Brennan told the audience. “We ended up on a world stage, and we did very well.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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