Downtown dwellers want noises off 

When Jeff Kicklighter, a local concert promoter and owner of Western Sky Productions, decided to accept a job managing ZZ Top’s concert tour next month, a big factor in his decision was the way Missoula reacted to rock concerts in Caras Park.

“The whole [Bravo] summer series was a wash,” he states. “The city government and the people in this town have this thing: ‘I’ve got mine, I’m going to keep it, don’t come near it.’ This NIMBY stuff is going to hurt the city for years to come.”

The squabble over decibel levels at the riverfront pavilion is about to come to a head, with homeowners along the river declaring that the noise from Caras Park events is so overpowering it causes their windows to rattle. Kicklighter and the Missoula Downtown Association (MDA) maintain they are just trying to do something positive for city residents while also stimulating the local economy.

Currently, a committee made up of representatives from MDA, Caras Park, the Southside Neighborhood Association and the Missoula City Council is trying to develop a solution for noise in the park that everybody can live with.

MDA’s executive director Linda McCarthy says a number of solutions have been proposed, including prohibiting amplified sound, requiring acts to use an approved PA system, putting walls on the pavilion, and simply ceasing to hold events in the park.

Kicklighter says Bravo has already decided not to put on another summer series next year, and MDA is frustrated because they say when they try to promote Missoula’s downtown, they are thwarted by excessive city ordinances.

“This issue doesn’t just affect concerts, but every wedding and every festival too,” McCarthy says. “Personally, I think the concerts add a lot, and the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. But I don’t live in that [riverfront] neighborhood.”

Michael Kreisberg does. He’s fighting to go back to “square one,” when Caras Park hosted cultural events of what he considers reasonable size and noise. Kreisberg urges MDA to study the way noise travels over water at night, because the relatively mellow Ziggy Marley show was “deafening” at his house. He also says the sheer number of summer events make it difficult to enjoy a quiet evening at home.

“Caras Park is not a place for rock concerts,” he emphasizes. “It’s not the proper place to draw several thousand people and give them alcohol.”

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