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Yarmouth County municipal units discuss Mariners Centre concert proposal to be able to host more shows

Country singer Travis Tritt performs at the Mariners Centre in the fall of 2011.
Country singer Travis Tritt performs at the Mariners Centre in the fall of 2011. - Tina Comeau

YARMOUTH, N.S. – While some members of the three municipal units in Yarmouth County hummed and hawed during a debate over a proposal to make the Mariners Centre a more viable concert venue, others around the table would prefer to see more humming – specifically to concert music.

Those who expressed concerns during a March 20 joint meeting of the Yarmouth town and Yarmouth and Argyle municipal councils where the issue was discussed worry about financial losses if concerts aren’t successful.

Others said there is a lot of untapped potential for the Mariners Centre, concerts being one of them.

“We have this Mariners Centre sitting there and you guys are too afraid to use the damn thing, it’s becoming annoying,” said Yarmouth town Councillor Wade Cleveland.

He and others said the Mariners Centre management wouldn’t book concerts that they didn’t think had a chance for success and added that by being held back over fears of losing money, you also lose the opportunity to make money.

“It’s time to start moving on these types of things,” said Cleveland, who said he had been at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre (arena) in Truro where they are promoting a concert that the Mariners Centre had to turn down.

Mark Chesnutt brought old-time country to the Mariners Centre during a May 2016 concert. TINA COMEAU
Mark Chesnutt brought old-time country to the Mariners Centre during a May 2016 concert. TINA COMEAU

 

The Mariners Centre doesn’t have the capability it requires to host concerts. This is due to seating. Seats on the floor of a concert venue are required to be “ganged” together, meaning seats in rows have to be fastened to one another. This is a requirement of the provincial fire marshall.

The banquet-style chairs the Mariners Centre used for concerts in the past are too narrow to be joined and provide comfortable seating. The Mariners Centre has 500 folding chairs it can gang together. It says another 300 to 500 folding chairs are needed to make the arena a viable concert venue – the more seating you have, the more tickets you can sell (and at an affordable price) and the more profit that can be made.

The Mariners Centre has forwarded a $45,000 concert fund proposal to the three municipal units. Money could be spent on additional seating and could see money set aside to cover any losses from an event. In the case of a profit, money could go back into this fund to replenish it for future events and excess funds could be applied to the Mariners Centre operational deficit. Ideally, each municipal unit would provide $15,000.

Argyle municipal Councillor Guy Surette was one of the people who expressed concert concerns.

“It’s too costly and it’s too risky. I’m totally against it,” he said during the conversation.

Yarmouth municipal Councillor Patti Durkee, on the other hand, said concerts should be pursued. She pointed to the people from this area who travelled to Liverpool to see the Barenaked Ladies concert.

“I think it’s something we should consider,” she said, adding there are economic benefits for a host area.

The way concert bookings typically work, it was explained, is when a concert is coming into a region, a promoter will contact venues to see if they want to be added to the concert’s tour.

“If you don’t have the ability to offer it, you can’t even be considered,” said Yarmouth municipal Councillor Trevor Cunningham, who would like to see more usage of the Mariners Centre.

The musical production Drum! was featured at the Mariners Centre in 2011. The music, rhythms and dance event featured musicians, dancers, drummers and singers from Aboriginal, Black, Celtic and Acadian communities. TINA COMEAU
The musical production Drum! was featured at the Mariners Centre in 2011. The music, rhythms and dance event featured musicians, dancers, drummers and singers from Aboriginal, Black, Celtic and Acadian communities. TINA COMEAU

 

It was pointed out during the meeting that proper seating to meet fire regulations isn’t just needed for concerts, it’s also required for Remembrance Day services, Yarmouth high school and NSCC Burridge graduations, dance recitals and other events that require row seating. Therefore, more seating could benefit other community endeavours.

“I believe the Mariners Centre definitely needs to be used more,” said Yarmouth town Councillor Don Berry, who is familiar with the fire regulation seating requirements since the Yarmouth high school rents the facility to hold its graduation. He is the school’s principal. He said additional proper seating could open up and/or benefit other community and event opportunities.

The proposal will go back to the three individual units for their consideration. At its March monthly meeting Yarmouth town council had approved a motion stating: “that the request for $15,000 to assist with the purchase of additional seating and support for concert promotion at the Mariners Centre be accepted contingent on the other municipal units contributing equally to the project.”

“For us we weren’t saying we weren’t doing it if nobody else is, we were just saying we want to make sure our partners were on board,” explained Mayor Pam Mood to the other councils, saying the town’s motion probably should have been worded a little differently.

Following the joint meeting Yarmouth municipal Deputy Warden John Cunningham said he was disappointed that there was no discussion about the Mariners Centre facility expansion proposal aimed at increasing recreational offerings. A time limit of two hours was attached to the joint council meeting so the meeting ended before this agenda item came up. It will be added to the agenda of another joint meeting to be held soon.

“I wanted to know if this project is moving forward or not,” he said about the expansion proposal, which was identified in the past as a regional priority by the three municipal units. Cunningham said an expansion proposal presentation was on the agenda of a recent Yarmouth municipal council committee of the whole meeting. “It was unanimous around the table, we want something put in front of us and we want to move forward.”

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