Kingsport to continue summer concerts

Matthew Lane • Mar 6, 2007 at 11:30 AM

KINGSPORT - Downtown Kingsport will be alive with the sound of music again this year.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Tuesday night to allocate $75,000 to bring back the summer concert series to downtown Kingsport.

The vote, however, did not come without some discussion and disagreement over whether the funding should be approved without first receiving more information about last year's concert series.

In April 2006, Kingsport kicked in $72,900 to create a 12-week Thursday night concert series - dubbed "Twilight ALIVE" - and to expand the "Bluegrass on Broad" concert series started by TK Dogs' owner Tom Keller four years ago.

The Downtown Kingsport Association oversaw the event and employed Asheville, N.C., concert promoter Doug Beatty to handle the concert bookings. The bands performed a variety of music including zydeco, jazz, blues, rock and gospel-rock.

Though there were some concerns about beer sales on Broad and when certain parking spaces would be roped off, most nearby merchants and people involved in the event say the concert series was a success and hoped it would return this year.

The BMA held a work session Tuesday afternoon and a regular meeting later that night, during which the proposed funding request was a topic of discussion.

Alderman Pat Shull voted against the funding appropriation, saying he was not provided a proper analysis of last year's concert series or information about the upcoming series.

"No one came in and told me why the concert series was successful and how we arrived at that. And no one came in and told us what we're going to do this year," Shull said. "We voted on some money with a subjective judgment about the effectiveness of the concert series.

"I just don't think it's right to vote on an issue concerning this much money until you've looked at it carefully."

The DKA never made a formal presentation to the BMA about the series. Officials with the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, which will oversee the concert series this year, said they were not told the appropriation was on Tuesday night's agenda.

According to DKA records, $50,000 went toward the Thursday night bands, $19,000 for the Friday night bands and $3,900 for insurance. DKA officials say they spent $17,530 on beer, with beer sales totaling $18,104. In addition, the DKA gave $4,200 of its own money to Beatty for police protection during the concert series.

Alderman Ken Marsh, who voted for the appropriation, said he thinks the city should look for others to pick up the funding of the concert series and not for Kingsport to carry it forever.

"We don't seem to have many facts here," Marsh said. "I look at this wondering if this is going to go on for perpetuity. Once you pull the trigger, it goes on and on."

Alderman Valerie Joh defended the concert series, saying she does not see how anyone could say Kingsport did not get its money's worth last year.

"Anyone who attended the concerts appreciated them. It was like a gift, and sometimes it's difficult to judge the value of a rainbow. I think we should keep doing it," Joh said.

Mayor Dennis Phillips said he thinks the city will be paying around $75,000 a year for the concert series in the foreseeable future, adding that any sponsorship money would likely go toward enhancing the performers and not result in a decrease in funding from the city.

"There are some things that you just do," Phillips said. "There's been more property sold in Kingsport in the last nine months in downtown than has been in the last five years. Things are happening that never happened. Lofts are being built, and new businesses are coming in."

With the BMA's vote Tuesday night, it appears the concert series is gearing up for an encore performance.

However, things will be a little different this year. The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce will oversee and handle the financials for the concert series. Beatty and Broad Street Productions will book the bands, set up the stage and arrange for security. The DKA will handle concessions and beer sales.

Miles Burdine, president of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, said the reason they were put in charge was due to the chamber's resources.

"It is a matter of a partnership being formed instead of one organization being responsible," Burdine said. "We're able to add the resources of the chamber, the KCVB (Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau) to the DKA and Broad Street Productions - we all bring something to the table."

Burdine said the concerts would likely take place on the portable stage owned by the DKA at the intersection of Broad and Market with the bands facing Main Street. If the concerts continue to be a success, Burdine said there is talk about creating a permanent stage that would also be used as an outdoor seating place.

"Where people can sit and enjoy food during the day. But we're not to the point where we could build that yet," Burdine said. "If the concerts continue to be successful, it would make sense to put something permanent in."

The time when the concerts would start has "yet to be worked out," Burdine said, adding that the series is expected to run from late May to late August. Burdine said there would likely be some gaps in the series as well, much like last year, when no concerts were held during the week of Fun Fest.

In addition, Burdine said there should be some sponsors for the concert series this year. Eastman Credit Union has signed on as a sponsor and is working to solicit other companies and businesses to be sponsors as well.

"The concerts last year were one of the most exciting things to happen in Kingsport in a long time. We want to make sure it continues," Burdine said. "(The response) has been very positive, and many private citizens are asking about it. And of course the answer is yes, we're very excited about it too."

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