Stop concerts on Halifax Common, councillor urges

A Halifax city councillor wants to put an end to concerts being held on the Halifax Common.

A Halifax city councillor wants to put an end to concerts being held on the Halifax Common.

It's not just the noise from the outdoor concerts but the disruption they cause for athletes and others who use the Common for commuting, Coun. Jennifer Watts said Thursday.

Thousands of people have come out to the Common in recent years to see performances by big acts like the Rolling Stones, Kiss and Paul McCartney.

"After four years, people have said they've had enough, and they would like concerts not to be here anymore," Watts said.

The shows create noise and disruption even for people who don't live nearby, the councillor said.

"It still has a major impact on people, on recreational users, as well as people who use this as an active transportation trail, and just generally as a green open space in the city," she said.

Watts's motion is to be debated at next week's Halifax regional council meeting.

That's welcome news for a group that's fought concerts on the Common for years.

"This is common land, and the concerts represent commercialization and privatization of the land, sometimes for weeks on end," said Beverly Miller, of the community group Friends of the Halifax Common.

Economic benefits outweigh nuisance

But the motion is bad news for the man who brought McCartney to Halifax last July.

"I'm hoping they'll come to the realization of the overall impact of this event, what it does for the city, the image of the city internationally," said Harold MacKay of Power Promotional Concepts.

Watts has questioned the economic benefits the concerts allegedly generate for the city, saying there are questions about exactly how many people attended the events and how much money the concerts generated.

"'We have never been able to get a clear hard number of … ticketed people who've attended," she said.

MacKay said the economic spinoffs of the McCartney concert were significant.

"The spend levels were in the $24 million range, so pretty significant expenditure," he said.

Watts would also like to stop the concert-related improvements that are set to go ahead this year on the Common, including $375,000 to install a permanent power source at the site and $120,000 to reinforce the turf for trucks unloading and loading equipment.

In 2006, a combination of rain, heavy equipment and huge crowds at the Rolling Stones concert churned parts of the Halifax Common into a muddy mess.

Resident opinions vary

Mayor Peter Kelly said he supports concerts on the Common.

"Common land is used for common purposes — for all purposes," he said. "It's not just for sports, not just for concerts; it's for many different opportunities and venues."

Halifax residents are divided.

"It does a lot of damage to the Common," said Tom Bell. "[It] seems to be fun and a nice evening, but my net feeling about it is it's not so good."

Joan Rodman disagrees and supports concerts on the Common.

"Well, we can always walk around [the Common]; it's not a big deal for me," she said. "I think it's a good idea to have them."

Another resident, Rob Doyle, is not ready to see the outdoor concerts disappear.

"I still would like to see a few more shows," he said. "Like, Paul McCartney was a great concert. Anyone else they could bring in, I'd go."