Changes planned for Bangor Waterfront, concert venue

BANGOR, Maine — People visiting the city’s waterfront this summer should expect to see some big changes.

Waterfront Concerts plans to install a new fence around Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, the 16,000-capacity concert venue along the Penobscot River. The wooden fence is expected to go up before the first show of the season, a June 4 performance by country singer Dierks Bentley, according to Tanya Emery, Bangor’s director of economic and community development.

The existing chain-link fence, which is lined with a blue tarp-like material during the concert season, has been called an eyesore by concert organizers, city officials and attendees alike. During the course of the year, people cut or rip holes in the material in order to sneak a free peek at the events going on inside.

Another frequent source of criticism is the bathroom facilities, and the city and concert promoters hope to address that this year as well. FTL Design Engineering Studio of New York is working with the city and Waterfront Concerts to find an affordable, more permanent replacement for the lines of portable toilets that have been provided for concertgoers in the past.

Prefabricated modular units could be one option, Emery said.

“I think that those folks, including our patrons, deserve some bathrooms, deserve just better fan amenities, better concession areas, a better overall experience on the waterfront,” promoter Alex Gray has said.

Last summer, FTL released a master plan for the waterfront, meant to guide changes and upgrades in the area through the coming years. The city has selected some of those recommendations, ones that should have relatively low price tags, to push forward with this year.

The city and Waterfront Concerts are still in the midst of pricing out and planning these projects. Emery said the city likely would dip into its downtown tax increment financing funds to pay for most of these changes, and it will have a better idea how much funding is available after it wraps up the budgeting process for the next fiscal year.

Another improvement is already underway — a road near Hollywood Casino leading to a backstage parking area for performers. Construction cost is estimated at about $495,000, with Waterfront Concerts and the city splitting the cost. The work also required installing a pump station, detention pond and lighting.

Bangor is contributing $243,000 to the project, according to Emery.

Outside the concert venue, the city is considering more additions to the waterfront. Staff members are designing and gathering cost estimates on a community stage or amphitheater, and they expect to add low-cost aesthetics such as planters, picnic tables and structures to provide shade.

The city also could set aside more spots and infrastructure in the waterfront parking lot for food trucks.

“The lunchtime crowd has grown consistently, and we’ve had requests for more vendors,” Emery said.

Emery also said the city is working to find a spot on the waterfront for a playground area, one that could include a “splash pad” with water-spraying features.

Bangor’s Business and Economic Development Committee gave its endorsement to the early stages of the plan during a meeting Tuesday night, and it instructed city staff and Waterfront Concerts to continue working on and planning these projects.

“We expect to come back with more concepts and cost estimates soon,” Emery said.

In other business Tuesday, the committee accepted a $2,500 donation from the Bangor Greendrinks group to install new trash and recycling receptacles on Main and Central streets downtown. The City Council is expected to accept the donation during its next meeting Monday.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

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