The Portland Phoenix

Promoters estimate ‘six-figure’ revenues for Payson Park from proposed July music festival

a sign outside Edward Payson Park in Portland

A sign outside Edward Payson Park in Portland's Back Cove neighborhood. (Portland Phoenix/Evan Edmonds)

Organizers for a massive concert series proposed for Payson Park next summer say their event could eventually bring “six-figures” every year in Portland park improvements.

C3 Presents, the Texas-based group proposing the as-yet-unnamed festival in the Back Cove park, submitted an official application to the city last week. The two-day festival is proposed for July 23 and 24, 2023. 

Emmett Beliveau, the event company’s chief operating officer, estimated that the festival could bring upwards of 20,000 people per day into the park. That attendance figure is twice the 10,000 people-per-day mark that Portland city staff had estimated in the Phoenix’s initial story last week.

The festival proposal has not yet been formally reviewed. Instead, C3 Presents has conducted informal meetings with neighborhood groups, the Parks Conservancy, and most recently, the Parks Commission. The Portland City Council would ultimately have to approve the proposal. The issue is slated for a council workshop at the Nov. 14 meeting, with a potential council vote on Nov. 21. Mayor Kate Snyder will also discuss the issue in her monthly Zoom meeting series on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

C3 is majority-owned by Live Nation Entertainment, the global ticket sales company which merged with Ticketmaster in 2010. It is the world’s largest live entertainment and ticketing company. Some of Portland’s bigger venues – the State Theatre and Thompson’s Point – are operations of the Bowery Presents and AEG Worldwide, the world’s second-largest live entertainment and ticketing company.

In a Nov. 3 meeting with the Parks Commission, Beliveau proposed a fee structure similar to the 2012 “Gentlemen of the Road” concert, headlined by Mumford and Sons, which took over the Eastern Promenade for a day. At that event, the city received 50-cents for every ticket sold, according to city staff. A similar fee structure could happen for Payson Park, and that revenue dedication would continue for as long as the festival operated. 

The application from C3, submitted Nov. 4, suggests an initial fee of $1 per ticket sold would go to the city, and “to demonstrate our sustained commitment to the future of this event,” organizers propose raising that to $1.50 in 2024 and $2 in 2025.

“There is a real, mutual benefit to having this special event,” Beliveau said, adding that he expects the festival to lose money the first year.

A children’s playground at Payson Park in Portland, Nov. 2022. (Portland Phoenix/Evan Edmonds)

It’s anticipated the festival would run from noon to 10 p.m. both days, with only one of the two stages in use at a time. All told, a total of 10 to 15 musical acts would perform.

C3 Presents has already started looking at the city’s capital improvement plan for Payson Park to see what infrastructure improvements they can make ahead of the proposed 2023 festival date.

Some neighbors took issue with C3 Presents “privatizing a public asset,” extracting revenues benefiting a private company from use of a public park. Beliveau stressed the group would look to minimize how long they are in the park so people can still use it. Setup for the festival would begin July 14 and conclude July 26, according to the application.

The company is proposing to put a fence around the park leading up to the concert, though C3 Presents would monitor usage rates to keep the park open to the public as long as possible, Beliveau said. The festival would require several road closures in the neighborhood, and 90 percent of the park would be publicly inaccessible for five days, allowing for set-up and removal of the two-day festival.

Unlike the Mumford and Sons concert where the city was directly involved in securing vendors, Beliveau said C3 Presents operates as a “turnkey” promoter, meaning they hire all the concessions vendors, artisans and festival staff, with the hopes of hiring local “when possible.” It’s not clear who C3 plans to use for stagehand labor. 

Beliveau said Portland’s festival would be the smallest of the 30 or so events they put on globally. They emphasize producing these events in public parks rather than industrial areas or parking lots “out of a sense of stewardship,” meaning “they leave those spaces better than they found them.” C3 Presents would also be on the hook for the fire department, police and emergency services during the festival, according to the application.

Should there be a heavy storm, Beliveau said they would cancel the event instead of pushing through and risking damage to Payson Park.

Beliveau has strong Maine ties, perhaps explaining some of the push for a Pine Tree State festival location. Raised in Augusta, he previously worked for former President Barack Obama’s administration and campaign for the White House. Emmett’s father, Severin Beliveau, was a former State House lobbyist, state legislator and chair of the Maine Democratic Party. His mother, Cynthia Murray-Beliveau, founded and served as the first chair for the Maine Women’s Lobby. 

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