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February 6, 2019

Developers tout economic benefits of Rock Row's concert venue

Courtesy / Wakely Beasley & Associates A rendering showing how the "Main Street" of the Rock Row mixed use development in Westbrook could look. A concert venue at the planned Rock Row mixed-use development in Westbrook will have an immediate impact of 100 full-time jobs, and if it becomes permanent could inject millions into the state's economy, developers said.

A concert venue at the planned Rock Row mixed-use development in Westbrook will have an immediate impact of 100 full-time jobs, and if it becomes permanent could inject millions into the state’s economy, developers said.

Construction on the site, starting with 80,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a Market Basket grocery store, is just beginning and the build-out of the 1-million-square-foot mixed use development is expected to take several years.

The 8,200-person amphitheater, Maine Savings Pavilion at Rock Row, which will open this summer is a temporary addition, a collaboration between Waterfront Concerts and Waterstone Properties Group, developers of the 120-acre former Pike quarry property next to the Maine Turnpike and bounded by Larrabee Road and the Wesbrook Arterial.

“The amphitheater at Rock Row will be an economic driver for the Westbrook and Portland communities,” a news release from Waterstone said this week.

The developer cites a University of Maine study that found in 2016 events at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor generated an estimated $24.9 million in economic output, and $8.1 million in labor income for local workers both directly and indirectly. The pavilion, which opened in 2010, has an audience capacity of 16,000.

Waterfront Concerts is moving its summer series from the Maine State Pier, on Commercial Street in Portland, to the Westbrook venue, more than doubling the capacity for the shows. The stage will be the largest in southern Maine, with a 175,000-pound load capacity.

“Waterfront Concerts events generate local economic activity in many ways, from concertgoers from outside the region spending money at hotels, restaurants and retail establishments, to local residents who attend events spending money on food and beverages,” the release said.

This summer’s amphitheater, which will operate between May and September, will result in as many as 100 new full-time equivalent jobs to venue operations, parking, security and concessions, the release said.

The plan for concerts arises from the growth in the region’s millennial population, spurred by greater Portland’s “nationally recognized food and beverage scene, along with an emerging startup economy.”

“As a result, demand for more frequent, high-profile concerts has grown,” the release said.

The 2019 plan allows parking for 1,721 vehicles, and is on the site where a beer hall, restaurant and other retail is planned, the planning board was told in December. If concerts become a permanent part of the development, a permanent site will be built elsewhere on the property and organizers told the board they’d have to book 30 shows a year to make it viable.

“Our goal for Rock Row is to create a place where people can come and have a highly curated and multi-dimensional experience, and the amphitheater is a huge part of that,” said Josh Levy, co-founder and principal at Waterstone Properties Group. “In addition to premier musical and performing acts in a highly accessible venue, Rock Row also offers a place to eat, shop and explore before the stage lights go up and after the encore.

“With all of these additional on-site amenities, the economic impact of concert-goers on the Westbrook community extends far beyond just the price of a ticket,” Levy said in the news release.

Outdoor music: A growing trend

Outdoor music venues, despite Maine’s short warm-weather season, are increasingly proving to be economic drivers in the state.

Aside from the two Waterfront Concert outdoor venues, the Snow Pond Center for the Arts Bowl in the Pines in Sidney is completing a $700,000 upgrade that will allow an audience of 6,000 and is expected to bring $1.5 million into the Augusta-Waterville area.

The amphitheater, built in 1930, and on the shores of Messalonskee Lake, has traditionally hosted nationally recognized musicians in a variety of genres, as well as free New England Music Camp concerts, but the upgrade will allow bigger acts with an expected $300,000 per concert economic boost to the area.

Attendance at the bowl is projected to be 11,500 in 2019, and increase by 40% for the next four years to 31,550 in 2022, according to Snow Pond’s website.

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