Event grounds silences critics for Ms. Twain

Site passes test with glowing praise; additional mega-concerts a certainty

The Guardian
September 4, 2014

The first major test of the new Charlottetown Event Grounds passed the grade with glowing praise. An estimated 23,000 fans — plus another 1,000 or so invited guests — turned out to see Canadian country mega-star Shania Twain, Summerside’s Trinity Bradshaw and Montreal’s Corey Hart perform. There were no reports of drunken rowdiness, multi-arrests, muddy pits and massive lineups that plagued the Aerosmith concert in 2007, when just over 30,000 fans faced sloppy weather and a vastly overmatched infrastructure system at the CDP.

Saturday night’s country concert, the biggest event in the city since P.E.I.’s version of Woodstock, featured an energized crowd, good weather and much better facilities. Ms. Twain delivered a tour de force performance with her full Las Vegas production. Everyone went home happy by 10:30 p.m. — Ms. Twain, fans, police, city officials, restaurant and hotel/motel owners. Traffic was busy but with the bridge and bypass right there, exiting the city went smoothly, if not a little slowly. Especially happy was promoter Andre Hudon, who had high praise for the event grounds.

Mr. Hudon said the site was almost flawless. He might have gotten a little carried away as long lineups for refreshments and washrooms were an issue, anyone under 5’8’’ had trouble seeing over the heads in front, and the stage could certainly have been a little higher for better sightlines. A slight grading would have been an obvious construction priority when building the site, much like the location in Cavendish for the early July country hoedown.

The Twain concert will be remembered as the highlight of our 2014 Charlottetown Conference celebrations but it faced a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar on the weekend with the tall ships in town, national, Atlantic and provincial baseball and softball tournaments were being staged across the province, and the Celebration Zone was busy on the waterfront.

The crowd could have been slightly bigger but many off-Island fans stayed home because they couldn’t find a hotel room. The MV Confederation ferry was out of service at Wood Islands, causing huge headaches for Northumberland Ferries Ltd. and travellers.

The promoter says he wouldn’t hesitate about bringing more major concerts — such as reunion tours featuring Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin — to Charlottetown.

That sounds fine but it’s time to give taxpayers a break. The province shelled out $350,000 to help bring Aerosmith here and another $250,000 through P.E.I. 2014 Inc. to lure Ms. Twain from her Vegas eyrie.

The right act at the right time will draw a big crowd, and since Charlottetown motels and hotels, stores and restaurants are going to benefit, it’s time they help out with some of the financial costs.

Granted, a crowd that size means a lot of taxes remitted back to government coffers but a little more financial co-operation is certainly in order here.

Speaking of co-operation, the promoter got that in spades from the City of Charlottetown, Eastlink Centre and the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation. It’s what made everything happen like clockwork and all parties deserve a pat on the back. A happy Ms. Twain is a huge tourism boost for this province.

Large numbers of city residents sat outside to enjoy the show for free Saturday night. Front lawns and street fronts were bristling with fans.

There might have been 24,000 inside the event grounds but thousands more enjoyed the show at no charge.

Residents as far away as Jewell’s Country Market at the York Road intersection were tweeting that it was like being inside the events grounds itself.

Those gusty southwest winds, which Ms. Twain herself glowingly commented on, were certainly blowing the right direction for many city and area residents.