With the boom era fading into memory, Coun. Andre Blanleil says it’s time for the city to get involved with plays for tourism dollars and stop resting on reputation alone.
“We got spoiled when we had everyone coming here but the world changed and we have to be more proactive,” said Blanleil, upon seeing a schedule of events in city venues that is down from previous years. “We are seeing events drop off.”
An annual soccer tournament, for example, was cancelled for the May long weekend and other events are suffering from fewer registrations. That trend is causing event planners to back out of making commitments to avoid the risk of losing money.
“We (as the city) need to play more of a proactive role,” he said, pointing out that WakeFest was a successful event that was ultimately killed by the political process.
“We still have ‘lead by example’ in the city. We don’t create events, we facilitate them, and they play a big role in our economy.”
One of the things Blanleil said he’d like to see more of is the use of Stuart Park in summer months.
“I see that as being such a people place, yet it sits empty in the summer,” he said, asking a city staff member if there was anything they could do to ramp up booking possibilities.
Council was then told there have been requests to hold everything from sporting events to concerts in Stuart Park—and there’s wiring for sound, lights and vendors to facilitate that aim—but the community trust that limits commercial events also puts a damper on those possibilities. As is, only volunteer, non-commerce events are possible.
“You are restricted when a guy wants to put a concert on and they can’t and I think it’s ridiculous,” Blanleil said.
However, Couns. Charlie Hodge and Michele Rule both said they were pleased with the way things were going. Hodge pointed out that fewer scheduled events means venues like City Park are more often available to the general public.
Rule pointed out summer is just beginning and it’s best to wait and see what comes up before getting too involved with the matters of city staff.
As is, there will be free dance lessons starting in the space every Wednesday, and it’s a regular spot for roller derby. Those events, she said, will liven the square up nicely.