Summer Nights shows moving to Gas Works Park - Last-minute shift worries Wallingford

The mayor's office has announced that the Summer Nights on the Pier concert series produced by Queen Anne-based One Reel is moving from South Lake Union to the southeast end of Gas Works Park for the foreseeable future.

It was an announcement made with short notice during the busy holidays, and the decision was made without consulting the Wallingford neighborhood near the popular park, complained Betty Richardson, a non-voting member of the neighborhood community council.

Seattle Parks and Recreation did hold a meeting for affected neighborhoods two days before Christmas, but there was only two days' notice about it and many were unable to attend, she added.

That included members of the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce, said spokeswoman Margaret Irvine, who added that many South Lake Union businesses are members of the Queen Anne Chamber.

In any event, the move was presented as a done deal, said Richardson, who did manage to get to the gathering. "It was a pretty frustrating meeting," she added. "I am irritated, but I also think it represents a serious breakdown in communications (with neighborhoods)."

No one from the parks department was available for comment because of holiday vacations, and no one from One Reel responded to a request for comment, either.

But mayoral spokesman Marty McOmber said the city is pleased with the change of venue for the concerts. "We are very excited to be able to bring this iconic event to an iconic location," he said.

Moving the concerts to Gas Works Park was necessary because work is set to begin on a new park at South Lake Union, where One Reel moved the music events from piers 62 and 63 for one season last summer because the aging piers were deemed unsafe, McOmber said.

Choices for a new venue were limited, according to a FAQ sheet prepared by the city on Dec. 23. Still, the city looked at Magnuson, Myrtle Edwards and Smith Cove parks as possible new locations for the concerts, and One Reel scoped out Port of Seattle property in the Duwamish, Harbor Island, Pier 48 downtown, and Terminals 90 and 91 in Interbay, according to the FAQ sheet.

So what was the big rush and why didn't Wallingford get a chance to weigh in on the issue? One Reel is already working on its lineup and needed assurances that there would be a place to hold the concerts, according to the city.

"We have just learned that the series can safely take part at (Gas Works Park), with careful protection of the turf and the addition of more electrical capacity," the FAQ sheet states.

Of course, parking and traffic generated by the concerts are big issues for Wallingford and Fremont, Richardson said. "Parking is a huge problem," she said. "Many of us don't have off-street parking."

Not to worry, according to McOmber. "We're very sensitive about concerns raised about traffic and parking," he said. "We believe there is adequate parking."

In addition, One Reel will conduct a study about parking for the concerts, and the non-profit arts organization will also develop a traffic-management plan for concert-goers, McOmber said. The resulting information will be sent to ticket holders and posted on One Reel's Web site, according to a press release from the mayor's office.

The 2006 concert season will begin in mid-June and end in late August. There will be approximately 20 concerts which will take place between 7 p.m. and no later than 10 p.m. weekdays, and 8 p.m. to no later than 11 p.m. on weekends, according to the FAQ sheet.

The stage will face the Aurora Bridge, and the FAQ sheet notes that computers will be used to "shape" sound contours from the speakers so that the music and singing are directed at the audience and don't spill over into adjoining neighborhoods-at least as much as that's possible.

Richardson sounded a little dubious about the claim. "They're not taking into account a bunch of people live here and sleep here," she said of the densely packed Wallingford neighborhood.

Richardson concedes that the Fourth of July celebration at Gas Works Park fills the neighborhood with roughly 50,000 people every summer. "But that's one time (a year), and I think most of us try to accommodate it," she said.

McOmber said he doesn't think it's fair to compare the Fourth of July crowd with the concert series because only 3,800 tickets will be available for each of the shows. "It's quite a bit smaller," he said.

Vafa Fazi, chairman of the Fremont Neighborhood Council, had no comment about the announcement last week. "At this point, I have heard nothing about it," he said.

But Fremont resident and Lake Union District Council president Suzie Burke said she is glad that One Reel is keeping the series in the area. "I feel these concerts are a wonderful thing to have on the lake," she said.

Burke also wondered why the concerts weren't set up in Gas Works Park to begin with, since so many other events take place there. "It's not an unknown," she said of turning the park into an entertainment venue.

"I'm hopeful everybody will be supportive," Burke said. "And One Reel, they do what they have to do to make things work."

Still, having the concerts at the south end of Lake Union last summer was a shot in the arm for local businesses there, and they'll be missed, according to Michael Federico, manager of the Outback Steak House.

"It was great for the whole neighborhood," he said. "The whole neighborhood was really alive."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.

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