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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Foxwoods proposes major outdoor concert venue on tribe-owned land in Preston

    Preston — Land on Route 2, once envisioned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe as a site for a polo playing field, could be transformed into a major outdoor music venue by this fall, bringing 15-20 artists and up to 25,000 people to a proposed Revolution Rock Festival.

    Foxwoods Resort Casino and Los Angeles-based promoter AEG Live have approached Preston officials with a plan to create an outdoor concert venue, with fences, gates, stages, tents, emergency services stations, portable toilets and “sponsor activities” at the 41-acre field at 455 Route 2, near the Ledyard town line.

    According to a two-page event description discussed by the Board of Selectmen on Thursday, Revolution Rock Festival would run from noon to midnight on Sept. 17, with gates opening at 11 a.m.

    Fifteen to 20 artists would perform on two or three stages. Parking would be across Route 2 on three parcels also owned by the Mashantuckets.

    It could be the first of many events at the former Dawley property purchased by the tribe in 1994.

    “If successful, the festival producers look forward to the possibility of expanding to multiple days in 2017 and beyond,” the proposal paper said.

    After he received the proposal, First Selectman Robert Congdon dusted off the town's 1971 special events ordinance and asked Fire Chief Tom Casey to research a multitude of fire, police and emergency services logistics associated with a major outdoor rock festival in town.

    Questions and concerns were voiced freely by Casey and others at Thursday's Board of Selectmen meeting — and images of the iconic Woodstock 1969 music festival were hard to avoid.

    What if it rains 3 inches, someone asked. What if 100,000 people come instead of 25,000? What if they come days ahead of time? What if any number of attendees are injured or become ill or overdose on drugs? How could traffic and pedestrian safety be ensured if attendees are coming and going at all times of the day, crossing busy Route 2 on a Saturday afternoon and night? Who would monitor noise levels? Would alcohol be sold at the event?

    “I don't think two ambulances and a volunteer fire department is adequate for something like this,” Congdon said.

    Casey said he and Resident State Trooper Timothy Paige contacted Hartford police, fire and emergency response officials who handle concert events at the Xfinity Theater, a 30,000-seat indoor-outdoor concert venue.

    Casey said based on their experiences, he would recommend the event be policed by 50 to 60 officers — not private security provided by the show promoter, he was advised.

    Hartford officials also recommended Preston get the list of rock bands ahead of time to research their events and fan behavior.

    The Preston fire marshal and building inspector would have to approve construction of any structures at the site.

    The town health director would have to issue temporary food permits to food vendors.

    And if any tents are erected, state law enacted following the deadly 1944 Hartford circus fire would require a dedicated fire response crew for each tent, Casey said.

    Casey said he also would ask the promoter for a “clearly defined” event command structure, an emergency evacuation plan and an emergency shutdown plan, with Preston officials in control.

    He stressed that the town's two volunteer fire departments could not be asked to staff the event while also being responsible for any other emergencies in town.

    “We're a small, predominantly residential community,” Casey said. “It would be irresponsible to pull our people away from protecting our residents to cover this event.” 

    “… I have me and one paid firefighter on duty during the day and maybe 12 to 15 volunteers and EMS personnel,” he added.

    Casey also expressed concern that there won't be enough time between now and Sept. 17 to work out all the logistics needed for the rock festival.

    The July 25, 1971, ordinance governs public gatherings of more than 500 people, and calls for plans to be submitted 30 days in advance.

    The Board of Selectmen must publish a notice of the application and offer residents 10 to 14 days to express concerns before the board votes on the application.

    In the event description, Revolution Rock Festival organizers said they would submit a detailed Festival Operations Plan at least 60 days in advance.

    The plan would contain traffic, parking, pedestrian traffic, event security, neighborhood security, local and state police presence, emergency medical services, cleanup and evacuation plans.

    “The producers take the safety and security of the fans, artists, working personnel and local residents extremely seriously,” the proposal said, “and those key areas are always the top priority.”

    AEG Live Senior Vice President Joe Litvag, listed in the proposal as the festival executive producer, said he could not comment until he meets with Preston officials.

    "We welcome the opportunity to sit and talk about the opportunity with them," he said.

    Foxwoods President and CEO Felix Rappaport said he could not yet comment on the proposed rock festival.

    “We are always looking at entertainment options,” Rappaport said. “We're not in a position to make a comment at this time.”

    Congdon said he will invite AEG Live and Foxwoods officials, as well as town zoning, building, health and public safety officials to a Board of Selectmen meeting to discuss the event.

    The town ordinance calls for the Board of Selectmen to review and decide whether to approve a one-time special event license.

    All licensees would have to pay for police officers deemed required by the selectmen.

    All refuse and cleanup also would be the responsibility of the licensee, and no overnight camping would be permitted at the special event site.

    “The selectmen may require a bond to be posted,” the ordinance states. “The rate of bond to be $15,000 per 1,000 people in attendance.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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