Watching from the sidelines of the Warped Tour concert at Canterbury Park last August, Randy Sampson, Canterbury's CEO, had an idea.
The concert, like most at Canterbury, was being held on a blacktop parking lot on the north side of the park. Why not move the concerts to the grass field just north of it?
"We got this all backwards," Sampson recalls thinking. "We're parking cars on the grass and we've got kids sitting on the asphalt."
It might not have been a novel idea, but it should make for a kinder, greener setting. And Sampson hopes the new setup also will offer something for Canterbury's Shakopee neighbors -- less noise.
Starting with Soundset, a hip-hop concert on May 30, Canterbury Park will be holding its concerts on a newly seeded grass field just south of Fourth Avenue E. The grounds, now called Canterbury Festival Fields, also will host 2010 Warped and Lilith Fair concerts.
Sampson said the new setup makes sense for music fans, the park and neighbors.
For the neighbors, concert noise has been an issue. Last year, Canterbury and the city of Shakopee fielded many calls and complaints about the volume and the language used during the 2009 Soundset concert.
The new venue is surrounded by a natural berm, slopes away from the residential areas of Shakopee and has some woodland between it and the neighborhoods nearby.
"The other advantage to that location is that it's below grade," Sampson said during a recent Shakopee City Council meeting. "So you have some natural sound barriers. It will set up nice to mitigate sound.
"We really believe this location will go a long way toward offsetting some of the concerns of our residential neighbors," he added.
But neighbors like Tony Vitters aren't convinced the grass, the berm and the trees will be enough to dampen the noise.
"The only way it's going to help for the neighbors is which way the wind is blowing," he said. "It doesn't matter where it's at."
In fact, during a concert a few years ago, the city fielded more than a dozen calls from Prior Lake and Spring Lake Township complaining of noise, according to Michael Leek, Community Development Director for the city of Shakopee. "The nature of the cloud cover that year seemed to have caused sound to bounce around in a different way," he said.
Vitters said it might ease the pain if neighbors received tickets to the shows -- something that's happened during past shows -- instead of having to hear them through open windows.
But Judy Kramer, who heads the homeowners association for the Condos of Shenandoah, a housing development on the west side of the park, said, with the exception of last year's Soundset concert, she's never had a problem with the noise in the seven years she's lived there.
Kramer said Canterbury is a good neighbor, and allows her association to use its halls for their meetings.
In the longer term, Sampson said, the goal is to bring in more than just concerts to the park. He's hoping to bring in dog shows, car shows, RV events, cultural events and sporting events, such as polo. Canterbury has had declining revenues over the past several years, and Sampson said this is one way the company is looking to open up new revenue streams.
"We think if we build it, they will come," he said.
Sampson said Canterbury will keep a close eye on how the area functions for concerts and add amenities and infrastructure such as water and electricity in the future.
For the concert-goers, moving onto softer turf will be a welcome change.
Randy Levy of Rose Presents is the promoter bringing Lilith Fair, Warped and Soundset to Canterbury. He said there's no downside in moving to the field.
"Going out for a family picnic, I'd rather sit on grass. If I was going to play a baseball game, I'd rather play on grass," he said. "It's as elementary as it gets, as far as I'm concerned."
Peter Cox is a St. Paul freelance writer.