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Councillor wonders why Charlottetown isn't hosting more big-ticket concerts

Shania Twain performs at the P.E.I. 2014 Founders Week Concert at the Charlottetown Events Grounds, one of dozens of events celebrating the Island’s role in Confederation. Twain drew more than 27,000 fans to her first P.E.I. concert.

(The Guardian file photo)
Shania Twain performs at the P.E.I. 2014 Founders Week Concert at the Charlottetown Events Grounds. There hasn't been a big-name concert there since. (The Guardian file photo) - SaltWire Network

Coun. Mitchell Tweel says it’s time to rock the City of Charlottetown.
At a meeting of the economic development, tourism and events management committee on Wednesday, Tweel expressed his frustration that Charlottetown is coming up empty when it comes to drawing big-name concerts.
Tweel, who sits as a member-at-large on the committee, points to the well-attended Def Leppard shows in Moncton and Halifax earlier this month and how it brought extra business into the two cities. Tweel said he attended the Halifax show.
“That brought a lot of dollars into that local economy, particularly into downtown Halifax. It was a terrific event,’’ Tweel said. “It just mystifies me to no end as to why we’re not hosting these events. The City of Charlottetown is not hosting major concerts. There is a huge void and the question is why.’’
Tweel also points to the fact the Charlottetown Event Grounds, a 3.5-acre site that the three levels of government paid millions of dollars to develop, sits empty. The last major concert there was five years ago — Shania Twain in 2014.
“The event centre down on Water Street is not being utilized. (Instead) it’s used as a storage pit for gravel. That’s not acceptable. That’s not what the taxpayers paid for.’’

The Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC) owns the event grounds, not the city, and has tasked the Eastlink Centre to manage it for them. The city has a 13 per cent share in CADC.
Stu Dunn, operations manager with Eastlink Centre and the event grounds, said in looking at Def Leppard’s remaining tour dates, there is only one outdoor festival in which the band was headlining a show.
“It would not be cost effective to produce only one, single outdoor concert unless you had major municipal and provincial government funding,’’ Dunn said. “People forget the Shania Twain concert received federal government money as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.’’
Dunn added the Def Leppard concerts in Moncton and Halifax were a Live Nation/Evenko promotion and they often limit Atlantic Canadian tours to those two cities.
Riley O’Connor, who heads Live Nation in Canada, has toured the Eastlink Centre and event grounds — as have other major promoters — but Dunn said it only takes “one stinker’’ for a promoter to sour on a market.
Dunn said Tweel and council should be asking why Whitecap Entertainment, which handles the Cavendish shows, doesn’t do more concerts on the Island, especially in Charlottetown.
“I did inquire with Whitecap regarding one particular concert, but they said it didn’t make sense financially due to the low seating capacity at the Eastlink Centre.’’
Wayne Long, events development officer with the city, said his staff are currently working on an “overarching festivals and events vision’’ for the capital. The consultant working on that vision is taking the event grounds into consideration.
Long said the city is also waiting to find out what the future of the event grounds is. Holland College has expressed interest in purchasing the site but has stated publicly it would be willing to share it.
Long added the city is also working on resurrecting a summer anchor event much like the old Festival of Lights.
“It’s definitely on the radar,’’ Long said.

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