By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — The Planning Board approved a request from The Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion (formerly Meadowbrook) to expand the number of events at which it could offer camping from 12 per year to all shows in a given year.
Restrictions included that the live music venue cap the number of campsites to 250 at all events except for a maximum of 1,000 sites at four events per season. The Pavilion must also discuss with the selectboard the detail rates charged by police and reach some sort of agreement as to how Gilford Police would be reimbursed by should the department need to call in extra officers for an emergency.
According to R.J. Harding, the owner of the venue, the goal is to be able to offer package deals to people attending shows over a two- to three-night period of time. For example, the Dave Matthews Band is playing two shows over two consecutive nights and the venue wants to be able to offer camping as part of a two-day package. He added that both shows are sold out.
Harding told the board that if, during one of their larger events, he reaches the point where the campers number more than is recommended by Chief Anthony Bean Burpee, he would pay for overnight police details. He also said that he has not reached that point yet, but would like to have the approval in place so he can try and book more events.
Bean Burpee, as well as many board members, expressed some concern with the number of potential campers. With 1,000 sites and up to six people per site, the potential for having as many as 6,000 people in one place is overwhelming to him. He said that, unlike the fire department, he has no financial ability to pay people for "on-call" status and should he need help from his own officers it would depend on a number of circumstances for each officer called.
As an example, he said he could call in officers, but if it's their day off, they can consume alcohol, leave the area or be otherwise unavailable. He allowed that there is some mutual aid response for emergencies from surrounding departments, the state police and the Belknap County Sheriff's Department.
Bean Burpee said he also fears a large increase in the number of people who attend shows will drink to excess because they know they don't have to drive.
Harding said he thinks this year the Pavilion could come close to 40 shows and his goal is to be able to offer a camping option for all of them. His site plan already allows for 1,000 campsites.
Realistically, he said the last year's average number of campsites was about 100 and the majority of them had only two campers, usually a couple. He added that while, other than The Dave Matthews Band, he has no back-to-back shows scheduled for this year, he would like the opportunity to do so as he continues filling the venue for the summer.
The Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion has a maximum seating capacity of 9,600 but Harding said they usually only book to 9,200 when they can.
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