The managers of the State Theatre, Portland’s busiest concert venue, plan to run a 5,000-capacity outdoor concert site on Thompson’s Point near the Fore River beginning next summer.

It will be Portland’s only permanent outdoor concert venue big enough to host major acts. Several summer concerts were held on the Maine State Pier this year, including shows by country star Dierks Bentley and rock band 3 Doors Down. But most years, major outdoor concerts in Portland are rare.

The venue will be part of the redevelopment of 30 acres of former industrial land on Thompson’s Point, which eventually will include retail space, offices, residences, a hotel and the Circus Conservatory of America.

The developers, Forefront Partners, had included an outdoor concert venue as part of their original plans, announced about four years ago. But until Monday the developers had not announced a manager for the venue or a target opening date.

“We wanted a partner that we could work with to really develop the site,” said Chris Thompson, a partner in Forefront Partners. “Obviously they (the State Theater’s management) know what they’re doing.”

The venue site has already hosted several events, including Beer Camp Across America in August. The area includes a former rail yard shed roof, suspended on steel beams. The site will be configured differently for different concerts, so sometimes large portions of the crowd could be under the roof, Thompson said. But the exact location of the stage and the type of seating have not been determined.


Lauren Wayne, manager of the State Theatre, said Monday that she doesn’t know yet what kind of acts the Thompson’s Point venue will host or how many. She said it might host six to 10 the first year, then more in the future.

Wayne said the venue might attract the kind of acts that play the State Theatre, which holds about 1,800 people, but it is not likely to host country stars since those acts attract larger crowds.

The State Theatre promotes about 200 shows a year in Portland, mostly indoors, at the State Theatre and the 520-capacity Port City Music Hall.

The only other large, permanent outdoor concert venue in Maine is Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, a two-hour drive from Portland. That venue holds a maximum of 16,000 people and regularly attracts major acts, including country acts.

“Generally, a venue’s market stretches to a one-hour drive in every direction, so there is room in (the Portland) market,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, the concert industry’s leading trade publication. “Outdoor venues have grown tremendously in the last 15 years, largely because they are so much less expensive than indoor arenas. Still, it’s smart that they’re starting at 5,000 capacity, to make sure that’s what the market can bear.”

City officials welcomed the announcement Monday, partly because it’s such a visible site and one of the first things people see entering Portland from the south.

“It’s one of the most prominent sites in the city, so having this kind of activity and energy there is great,” said city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin. “It’s a perfect site for that kind of use.”

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