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Rock the Docks concerts moving from Norwich Harbor to Dodd Stadium

Norwich — The lights will be on, and hot dogs and beer sold at the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium at least on a few nights this summer.

A week after the announcement that there will be no minor league baseball at Dodd, the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce is finalizing plans to move the summer Rock the Docks concert series from the much smaller Howard T. Brown Memorial Park at Norwich Harbor to the spacious 6,000-seat stadium during COVID-19 restrictions.

Chamber Executive Director Angela Adams said Monday the chamber plans to sponsor four Wednesday evening concerts on July 22 and 29 and Aug. 5 and 12 at Dodd. The concerts will run from 6 to 8 p.m. with seating limited to 500 attendees. One concession stand will be open on the first base side, and fans will be able to sit spaced apart to eat on the concourse.

While there is no admission for the concerts, Adams said people must register in advance because of the limited seating.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday announced a “pause” in the state’s plan to continue easing restrictions on some businesses and entertainment to try to avoid a slide as the state’s coronavirus numbers continue to improve. The governor kept outdoor entertainment at 50% of venue capacity, well above the chamber’s plan to allow up to 500 concert attendees at the 6,000-seat stadium.

“We’ve learned that being outside is so much safer,” Lamont said. “We had talked about raising capacities for entertainment venues and gyms but we’re going to keep that at 50%, too, for the foreseeable future.”

Norwich Sea Unicorns Senior Vice President CJ Knudsen said seating will be spaced out to keep non-family groups at least 6 feet apart. Attendees will be required to wear masks, except for eating. Attendees will use the main gate and perhaps one of the side gates to avoid clustering. The chamber will be in charge of admissions and reservations, Knudsen said.

“We’re still trying to iron out the details,” Knudsen said. “We’re excited about having an event at Dodd Stadium and having another use for Dodd Stadium other than baseball.”

Knudsen said the Sea Unicorns are looking into hosting other events at Dodd Stadium this summer as well.

For Rock the Docks, a lineup of bands will be announced when the schedule is complete, Adams said. So far, two bands have committed. The chamber also is contacting the traditional Rock the Docks sponsors for support. Anyone interested in sponsoring the concert series is asked to contact the chamber at (860) 887-1647.

Rock the Docks, co-sponsored by the chamber and the Norwich Area Business and Industry Foundation, normally is held in July and August at Brown Park. The free concerts normally draw 500 to 1,500 people, Adams said. Food vendors set up shop at the park, and the City Council grants a waiver to the alcohol sale ban in the park for the events.

The two agencies also sponsor a series of low-key acoustic concerts on Friday evenings in summer on the Norwichtown Green. Adams said the chamber hopes to move that series, which usually draws about 100 attendees per concert, to Brown Park this summer to provide some support for downtown businesses. No alcohol will be served. Details have yet to be worked out for the Friday series.

The Norwich City Council initially had planned to vote on a resolution Monday to move the Rock the Docks concerts to Dodd Stadium. But Mayor Peter Nystrom said Monday the resolution was not necessary, because the concerts will be chamber events, and the chamber will rent the stadium directly from the Norwich Sea Unicorns.

Uncas Health District and the city fire marshal’s office have been assisting with the logistics, Nystrom said.

Nystrom said he is confident the concert series at Dodd Stadium will be successful and that the chamber will be able to book the bands easily.

“There are bands itching to play all over the place,” Nystrom said. “I’m not worried about that.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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