Build it and they will come

Published on August 8, 2013

Bruce Springsteen fans in this province have been disappointed again. Rumours that the Boss might visit St. John’s have been circulating for a couple of years.

But at Monday’s council meeting, St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe scuttled fans’ hopes — at least for now.

City officials apparently met with promoters proposing to bring Springsteen to an outdoor venue, but the city had to pass.

“One of the impediments was the difficulty of finding a location where you could have such a concert where you might have 25,000 or 30,000 people attending and, at the same time, not have a negative impact on people who live close to where the concert was being held,” according to O’Keefe.

And — with all due sympathy to Boss fans — right now, that’s a good thing.

St. John’s simply isn’t equipped to handle one of these massive outdoor rock fests.

Once upon a time, St. John’s was a great outdoor venue. Remember the concerts in the 1980s and ’90s by the likes of Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams and Def Leppard on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake or Lynyrd Skynyrd in Paradise, I Mother Earth in Bowring Park, even a disastrously damp Canada Day concert on Confederation Hill.

We had the venues and we had the concerts; some worked and some  didn’t.

We have smaller venues. The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival had 12,000 people last year at Bannerman Park and might even have more at Bowring Park this weekend.

But larger ones? Nope.

The fields where rock gods and goddesses strutted their stuff in the past have largely been paved over, covered by condos, ballfields or subdivisions.

O’Keefe would love to have St. John’s build a name as an outdoor venue. It would add sheen to our status as a capital city, not to mention bring an economic jolt.

But it’s doubtful that even if the city could find a big enough space within the city limits for a gig. Finding one where local residents wouldn’t complain about the crowds and the noise would be even harder.

Enter Danny Williams.

He’d be more than happy to include a major outdoor concert venue as part of his $5-billion Glencrest development.

And to be honest, that’s just what the doctor ordered.

If the city is serious about playing host to concerts for anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 people, it needs to be done right.

The space has to be right. Access has to be right. If it’s designed into a yet-to-be-built development like Glencrest, it could be situated where it wouldn’t have a “negative impact on people who live close to where the concert was being held.”

That’s all good.

But the best thing about the offer from Williams? It wouldn’t be city-run.

The city would be enhanced by such a development. It would even benefit economically from such a development. But it shouldn’t be involved in paying for such a development.

Municipalities should be in the business of running a municipality — not working as concert promoters.

The public is better served paying for tickets to see the Bruce Springsteens of this world — not by seeing their taxes spent on bringing them here in the first place.