More than concerts

03 22 gilford meadowbrook harding

R.J. Harding, president of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, answers questions before the Gilford Planning Board during approval of a new swimming pool and lazy river attraction for performers and their entourages at the amphitheatre. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)


Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook owner foresees many upgrades for Gilford venue


GILFORD — R.J. Harding said he hopes to engrave the Lakes Region on the memories of visiting performers who come to play at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook.
In the live-concerts industry, Harding said he plans to gain a reputation not just through the area's natural beauty but through extras that can't be found at other venues.
Such is the case with a new swimming pool and a water park feature called a "lazy river," a waterway for gentle tubing and flotation that loops around the pool. Both will cater exclusively to visiting artists and their crews.
Harding, the president of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, said his wife actually pushed for the addition, which received the blessing of the Gilford Planning Board Monday.
"My wife talked to me for 10 years about having a lazy river, and I told her she was nuts, we would never do that," Harding said, laughing, during an interview Monday night.
Today, anything is possible, and Harding hinted at other improvements to come at the 9,000-seat outdoor amphitheater.
After the death of his father and Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center founder, Robert Harding, R.J. Harding became a part owner of what he calls "New England's finest concert venue."
Harding said he works with founding partners, the Gelottes. The late William Gelotte was one of the founding partners and chairman of the board for Meadowbrook Farm LLC.
"We're not done. This is just the start," Harding said Monday, as the Planning Board reviewed his proposal.
"Now we're getting into more multi-night performances," he explained. "We really found our niche in our industry by excellent hospitality starting with catering years ago and now it's been everything else you can think of, our beautiful lake and boating. Now people are starting to stay four and five days this year, and we thought it was worth the investment to cement that reputation within the industry. Gilford has become one of the places across the country where acts want to play. I wanted to put the nail in that coffin, and make them never forget us, basically."
Once the pool and lazy river become established features, Harding said he will explore other amenities.

"I'll definitely be adding on to it, whether it be bungalows and suites up there, or I'll extend the lazy river, maybe, and keep going," he said. "No venue has done this stuff."
The venues that get mentioned as "the place to play" include Red Rocks in Colorado, a longtime destination for top artists.
"My wife and I decided years ago we needed to build our own Red Rocks and we'll do it through things like that, hospitality, and it's working, but they also come to expect new things every year," Harding said.
In 1996, Meadowbrook consisted of temporary staging with 2,500 temporary seats and room for 2,000 lawn guests. Today the venue consists of 5,746 reserved seats under the pavilion roof and 1,850 general admission lawn seats, according to its website,
The 2017 season opens with the Zac Brown Band, May 27-29; and other performances include the Avett Brothers, June 1; Miranda Lambert, The Cadillac Three and Tucker Beathard, June 2-3; Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Indigo Girls, June 16; Bryan Adams, June 17; and Third Eye Blind & Silversun Pickups, June 20.
During Monday's meeting, Harding explained that existing bathrooms and changing areas will complement the new pool and lazy river.
In 2011, Meadowbrook built a crew room with six showers, three for each gender, Harding said.
Harding said the pool and lazy river would be reserved for the performers and their crews. Asked about the prospect of renting out the facility for the general public, Harding said, "I have no interest in becoming a pool party rental guy. I hope I never have to get to that point in the financial scheme of things."

Skeptics warn of noise, traffic due to Meadowbrook


GILFORD — First the voters and now the Planning Board have cleared the way for the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook to install a swimming pool and a "lazy river" float feature.
But some members of the board and the public are worried about noise and other unintended consequences.
The Planning Board ultimately added one condition, a stipulation that the venue's exemption from the town noise ordinance ends at 11 p.m.
Article 23, a new noise ordinance approved by voters on March 14 by a vote of 542-361, limits noise from equipment between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and otherwise prohibits "unreasonable noise." But the ordinance exempts Meadowbrook Pavilion, as well as several other locations, including schools, churches, medical facilities, Gunstock Recreation Area, Ellacoya State Park, Marine Patrol at Glendale, Lake Winnipesaukee and Laconia Airport. The 1995 ordinance which this article supersedes did not exempt locations but allowed the use of sound projection devices by town-licensed functions or activities.
R.J. Harding, president of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, reminded the board that the venue operates under an 11 p.m. curfew for live performances.
The pool and the lazy river will be located out behind the pavilion in a backstage area, said Peter Howard, consultant with Steve Smith and Associates. The lazy river will be about 350 feet long, 170 feet each way, he said.
Howard said the proposed pool and lazy river plaza straddles a newly rezoned 9.44-acre parcel being sold by Barry Dame to Meadowbrook Farm LLC.
On the town warrant, Zoning Article 2, to change the zoning of the property, passed 670-305 on March 14.
Groups as large as 150 people often accompany performers, Howard said, and the new pool and lazy river feature will be used by the performers and their entourages, not the public.

"Meadowbrook is trying to promote the groups staying longer than a day," he said.
Planning Board member Jerry Gagnon said he wanted to make sure speakers would not blast music from poolside.
"No, nothing tied to the big system, no," Harding said. "We may have a distributable system, like small, little speakers so that if they're sunbathing they can listen to music, but it certainly won't be anything with any volume."
Harding said the location features woods and foliage around it with at least 200 feet of buffer separating the pool and lazy river from the nearest neighbor.
Planning Board member Carolyn Scattergood said, "I assume after a performance, the performers and their entourage can go up and use this, and is there going to be an outside limit, like 2 in the morning that it would shut down, or is it going to be open all night?"
Harding said, "We haven't taken the conversation that far about a specific curfew, but we certainly wouldn't want to disturb anybody's peace. I'm hoping that we have enough coverage and space there where it won't bother anybody because there's not going to be any volume or loud music or anything like that. But these are nightcrawlers, these people, they start their day at 3 in the afternoon."
Most of the use should happen during the day, particularly when crews have finished setting up the stage and have down time, Harding said.
The New Hampshire Liquor Commission oversees alcohol consumption at the site, so it won't be a "free for all," he said.
With 22 years in the community, Harding said, "if there's a problem we'll fix it," he said.
Mark Lariviere, president of Yacht Club Vista Condominium Association, said members of the association shared concerns about hours of operation.
"At night, you can hear people talking like they're standing right next to you," Lariviere said.
"If they're out there having parties and drinking beer and raising hell, that's the concern that the people at Yacht Club Vista have," he said.
The bands operate under an 11 p.m. curfew, Harding reiterated, and he said the parties typically won't project as much sound as a concert.
Lariviere said he's a volunteer board president and doesn't want to field constant complaints. "They'll be calling me, saying, 'There's a lot of noise up there,' and what do I do?"
Dame attended the meeting and asked what was apparently a rhetorical question about how large the parcel would be to house the pool and lazy river, noting that less than half an acre would be developed in nearly a 10-acre parcel.
But Lariviere warned of "secondary effects" from changes, such as parking fees that he said prompted foot traffic to spill into neighboring lots.
When the concerts end, attendees come down through Misty Harbor Barefoot Beach Resort and cross the condo association lot, "urinating in the bushes, throwing stuff around," he said.
Noting the flow of foot traffic onto Route 11B, Lariviere said, "People are crossing that street. I saw little kids almost get killed last year."
The problems could only escalate with changes, he said.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," Lariviere warned of the new development.
"That's the first I've heard that that's an actual serious issue," Harding said of the parking problems, noting that other abutters could account for the overflow.
The Planning Board approved the upgrades with the noise ordinance notation. Other site improvements include a patio and walkway, security fencing, retaining walls, drainage, landscaping and an arched footbridge over the lazy river.

City teachers concerned over new PACE system of testing


LACONIA — A new way of teaching and testing planned for the Laconia School District has become a concern for some of the teachers who will have to make it work.

Students would be asked to demonstrate knowledge through performance. A chemistry student might be asked to form a compound in a lab, rather than answer a question on a test, or a math student might have to calculate the dollar-and-cents effect of a merchandise discount.

At a Saturday budget work session, some teacher representatives asked about the practicalities of doing this and the time that would be required of already-busy instructors.

School Board member Mal Murray has also expressed concerns about paperwork increases for teachers under the system, which is called "Performance Assessment of Competency Education," or PACE.

"We keep piling more things on our teachers," he said.

The New Hampshire Education Department describes PACE as "a first-in-the-nation accountability strategy" that would allow for a reduced level of standardized testing. The U.S. Education Department gave the state permission to pilot the system, and the Laconia School District is one of a number of districts that will be participating statewide.

Laconia Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said Wednesday he has heard concerns from some people about how much effort and work will be required of teachers.

"But all indications are that structures are in place to account for that," he said.

Time could be made available during the work day for teachers to implement the system, or pay could be given to teachers for work after school or during the summer.

Minnihan also said many people like the ideas behind PACE, which is intended to offer students greater opportunities to acquire critical knowledge and practical skills.

"Most people are fairly supportive while recognizing it is a shift and will require a degree of work," he said.

The system will be accompanied by competency-based approaches to instruction and learning aimed at preparing students to enroll in a higher educational institution or begin the pursuit of a career.

PACE is to be implemented next year at the elementary level in Laconia. It will be rolled out at the middle- and high-school level at a time to be determined, possibly after a year of training and support work.

Deborah Clarke-Tivey, president of the Laconia Education Association and a middle-school teacher, declined to discuss PACE, saying it would be inappropriate to do so at this time because labor contract negotiations are under way.


What is PACE?

According to the state Department of Education, "PACE is a learning system designed to capitalize on the latest advances in understanding of how people learn.The goal is to structure learning opportunities that allow students to grapple with gaining meaningful knowledge and skills at a depth of understanding that they can transfer to new real-world situations. As a coherent system, NH PACE is designed to foster positive organizational learning and change by supporting the internally-driven motivation of educators instead of the all-too-common top-down accountability approaches where the goals and methods of the accountability system are defined at the state or federal levels and districts are simply expected to comply."

PACE eliminates over-testing, according to the state.
"Teachers use every assessment except the six state assessments to inform day-to-day student learning, provide data for student grades, and help determine students' levels of competency. Legitimate concerns about over-testing arise when students take tests with no direct benefit to the students or the school but are required for accountability purposes. NH PACE avoids the problem of over-testing because the same performance assessments used for local grading also serve accountability purposes."

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