The House of Blues, The Fillmore, the Gramercy Theatre – and now, Westbrook’s Riverbank Park?
No one will say for sure, but Westbrook officials have hinted that the mega concert promoter Live Nation, which owns those well-known venues, is working with the city to bring an outdoor concert pavilion and major music acts to the park on the Presumpscot River.
“We are interested in participating in Maine’s live music scene and are exploring opportunities,” said Live Nation spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson on Friday, in response to questions about the company’s interest in Westbrook.
Assistant City Administrator William Baker said this week that a major promoter, which he wouldn’t name, is interested in a 3,500-seat seasonal venue for acts that play at similar venues in Newport, R.I., and Hampton, N.H. – presumably the Newport Yachting Center and the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, both 1,800-seat pavilions.
Live Nation has several shows scheduled at those venues this summer, including The Wailers and Rusted Root, An Evening with YES, the Led Zeppelin Experience, Billy Idol, Cheap Trick and Fitz & The Tantrums.
Past shows have included Lynryd Skynyrd, Styx, Tony Bennett and Pat Benatar.
Live Nation Concerts, which owns or operates 148 venues in eight countries and puts on 60 festivals a year worldwide, is under the umbrella of Beverly Hills-based Live Nation Entertainment, a publicly traded company that also owns Ticketmaster.
Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry publication Pollstar, said Live Nation is “by far, the biggest promoter in the world,” selling $33 million in tickets worldwide in 2013.
“In terms of outdoor amphitheaters in the United States, they have almost all of them,” he said.
Baker said the promoter told city officials last summer that it was interested in a venue in southern Maine similar to the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, but smaller. The pavilion has a seating capacity of 16,000.
He said the promoter was attracted to Westbrook because of the river and the city’s access to the Maine Turnpike.
“Someone at Live Nation has identified the need for another facility to serve New England,” Bongiovanni surmised, when asked why the promoter might be interested in Westbrook. “Positioning something a little farther north of Boston is probably a viable market.”
Live Nation owns and operates Boston’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, a 5,000-seat venue formerly known as the Bank of America Pavilion, and works closely with Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.
Bongiovanni said a smaller venue “means a lot more shows are capable of coming,” and it probably wouldn’t compete with similar venues more than an hour’s drive away.
Even people involved with nearby venues said Friday that they aren’t concerned about competition from the big-name promoter.
Steve Crane, general manager of the newly renovated Cumberland County Civic Center, said acts that want to play outdoor venues choose Bangor or the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook in Gilford, N.H., over the civic center anyway, and a pavilion in Westbrook would just provide another option.
“It’s already happening,” he said.
Nick Bloom, who books the L.L. Bean Summer Concert Series, said he has no concerns about overlap between Westbrook and the free events in Freeport.
He said another venue might force others to adjust how they book acts, but in general, it would be a good thing.
“I would think that this area, southern Maine, could really support an outdoor venue like this,” he said.
The city of South Portland floated plans for concerts next to Bug Light Park starting this summer, but the developer withdrew his application to build the outdoor theater. City officials had dropped an earlier plan to develop a performing arts center on land the city would have leased from Portland Pipe Line Co.
An outdoor amphitheater with concerts starting this summer is part of the plan for the mixed-use Thompson’s Point project in Portland.
Chris Thompson, a partner in the development, said that venue would have capacity for 5,000 or more people with no fixed seating, hosting banquets and other functions as well as concerts.
From what he has heard about Westbrook’s plan, he said, he doesn’t think they would be in direct competition.
“They’re two different venues with two different styles and two different approaches,” he said.
Thompson said he thinks a concert venue in Westbrook could benefit everyone in the area, including Thompson’s Point.
“More venues like this put the Greater Portland region on the map,” he said.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: