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Playing the field

Mike Fleury rocks out on the Common.

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Regional council has approved a plan that opens the door for more large-scale concerts on the Halifax Common—up to two shows a year for the foreseeable future—beginning this summer.

The 18-page recommendation describes last September's Rolling Stones concert as "undoubtedly a great success"—but also admits "the process leading up to the actual event cannot be characterized in this same manner."

"Let's face it: When the Stones were coming, we were neophytes at this," says Real Property Planning manager Peter Bigelow.

Some residents near the Common weren't thrilled to host the Stones: Soil and grass suffered from the large crowds and some parts of the Common were fenced off to accommodate the show (some of that temporary fencing is still standing).

Those concerns persist and with good reason—the approved plan designates that acts playing the Common will be of a similar scale to the Stones: able to attract at least 40,000 fans.

"Well be getting a protective layer to protect some of that turf on the Common," says Bigelow. "It looks like a spongy layer. It lets light through, so it doesn't let the grass go yellow, it's compact and springs back. It can be used to build temporary roads for construction equipment and to help with heavy foot traffic." Bigelow says that with protection, temporary concert fencing could be removed in a matter of days, not months.

Scott Ferguson, a spokesperson with concert organizers Events Halifax, says that Events Halifax has been actively talking to promoters about Common, but "it's too early in the process to talk about names." Still, the rumour mill is already churning. The proposed concert dates for this coming summer fall on August 18 and September 1. Although not yet confirmed, the September show could be reserved for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw (Moncton is also vying for that concert).

The Commons Legacy Fund has also been established, which will charge concert promoters for use of the space and direct some of their profits back into improving the Common. Fifty thousand dollars were devoted to the fund after last fall's concert.

Fire on Gottingen

Near press time on Wednesday, a major fire started and quickly spread through the North End Pub and North End Diner on Gottingen Street. Both businesses were badly damaged: Even before the fire was put out, some parts of the Gottingen Street building had burned completely to the ground. There were no reports of injuries.

At the scene of the fire, an unidentified kitchen staffer, who had been inside the building, provided some early details.

"We didn't realize there was a fire. We smelled something burning, we thought it might be coming from outside. So, we didn't really know there was a fire in the building until the last minute and then we did see a little bit of smoke, and that's when we made the call ."

The fire started in the early afternoon, while some customers were inside the building. The unidentified man, still wearing his staff jacket, expressed relief that everyone had to made it to safety.

"I couldn't tell you how many people were in the pub at the time. There were a few patrons in the diner. We were fully staffed in the kitchen and the pub, but everyone got out safe."

More details to come next week...

Know more? Email mikef@thecoast.ca

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