Tonawanda News

September 26, 2013

Former NT concert series nixed in Lockport

By Joe Olenick
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — CITY OF LOCKPORT — The Labatt Canal Concert Series in Lockport — which has its origins as the Molson Canal Concert Series in North Tonawanda before moving east five years ago after a long-running feud between its promoter and city officials — is finished.

Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Wednesday the city cannot afford to fund the series any longer. The shows, free to concert-goers, cost Lockport taxpayers about $125,000 each year, an expense city officials said might be too great to justify in a tough financial environment. A termination letter is being sent to the concert series promoter.

“The concert series as we know it is over,” Tucker said. “But I think it has been a very good thing for our city overall.”

When shows were staged at Gateway Harbor Park in North Tonawanda, no public money was given to promoter Kathy Paradowski. Her sole revenue source was through concessions. After several dust-ups with city officials at the time, Lockport made Paradowski an offer to help underwrite the cost if she would agree to move the shows to that city’s recently revamped Ulrich City Centre downtown business complex.

Now, Tucker said, the expense is no longer feasible. 

The city is facing a tough budget situation, as the state comptroller this week called Lockport a city with “moderate fiscal stress.” Expected dates for a budget hearing and vote were pushed back this week to the end of October. Budget talk has included discussion of layoffs.

“You can’t have layoffs and concerts,” said Common Council President Anne McCaffrey.

The concert series moved to Lockport in 2008, bringing a show each Friday night for about eight to nine weeks each summer. However, with the city dealing with a host of financial challenges, the cost of the series has been a topic of budget conservation for the past few years.

This year’s series, moved from the Ulrich City Centre to a municipal parking lot on Chestnut Street, was plagued from the start as the first show was canceled in light of the citywide flooding that occurred in June. Another show was cut short because of rain, although a last-minute show was booked to help salvage the season.

While Lockport’s series has struggled, Paradowski has marked a return of sorts to the Lumber City, staging a handful of concerts featuring national acts on Sunday afternoons at Gratwick Riverside Park the last two summers. City officials have said they’re open to expanding the number of shows though no official offers have been made.

It’s unclear what, if any, impact the Lockport cancelation could have on Paradowski’s plans for next summer in NT.

Tucker said the city is looking into providing an alternative. A series of free concert shows that would not cost the city anything. The mayor said he was in talks with an individual “who feels he can put on a concert series at no cost to the city.”

“That could happen,” Tucker said. “He knows what he’s doing.”

Tucker declined to give details, but said he felt the series could have the same caliber as the Canal Concert Series.