BANGOR — The Waterfront Concerts Series and its big-name acts have generated more than $30 million for the local economy in its first three years, according to a University of Maine study.
Since its first event, a July 2010 Celtic Woman show, Waterfront Concerts has drawn more than 200,000 people, with the number of offerings and attendance figures building each year. The concert series, which had seven events in its first year and 17 in each of the past two, has brought 41 acts to Bangor.
Todd Gabe, an economist at UMaine, presented the findings of the economic impact study to the Bangor City Council during a Monday night meeting.
Since 2010, concertgoers have spent $18.6 million, which led to additional indirect spending of about $11.8 million, according to Gabe’s study. With each year of concerts, the economic impact of the series has grown.
Those results were gleaned from Maine Revenue Services data, such as information on taxable lodgings and restaurant spending figures, as well as ticket sales information, which includes the ZIP codes of those who purchased tickets to attend events.
That ticket data revealed in 2010 just 2.5 percent of concertgoers came from more than four hours away. Two years later, 17 percent of people who bought Waterfront Concerts tickets traveled more than four hours to get to Bangor.
“The number of shows has increased since 2010, and people seem to be coming from greater distances,” Gabe said Monday. “This explains the large increase in economic impact.”
In 2010, the economic infusion — direct and indirect combined — was less than $5 million, but in 2012 it grew to nearly $16 million, according to the data.
“It speaks volumes to how the region has supported us,” Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray said Monday about the findings of the study.
Gabe said it’s difficult from the data to determine exactly which concert generated the highest economic influx, but that country acts consistently drew in high numbers of concertgoers from farther away, which brought in more money because those people tended to eat in town and stay in hotels overnight.
Economic benefits stretch beyond that initial $30 million in spending, according to Gabe. The study found that Bangor-area residents garnered an additional $16.7 million worth of benefits because they didn’t have to pay for travel costs to see the acts elsewhere. Gabe used the revenue data to determine the “value” of a show based on how far concertgoers would be willing to travel to see the same act in a different place. That $16.7 million would have gone toward expenses such as gas and hotels for Bangor-area residents who would have spent money to travel to see the same act in a place such as Portland or Boston, Gabe said.
The UMaine study also found that money generated by the concert series supported an average of 160 local jobs per year, with a high of 252 jobs in 2012.
Gabe reached out to Gray this past summer after attending one of the concerts and deciding he wanted to research exactly how much money the concert series generated for the local economy, according to Gray. Gabe said he volunteered to do the study in his capacity with UMaine. Waterfront Concerts staff worked “hundreds of hours” to provide Gabe with data about tickets and shows for the study, which Gabe and a research assistant conducted without funding as a sort of public service through the university, Gabe said.
Gray said he expects Waterfront Concerts to continue to grow and that he hopes the trend of increasing economic benefits will continue. He said the new permanent venue under construction on the waterfront will make for a more appealing venue for both concertgoers and potential headline acts. Future upgrades could include permanent bathrooms and covered seating.
“The growth is going to come from continued investment in the site to make it a first-class amphitheater,” he said, adding that Bangor is poised to no longer “play second fiddle” to southern Maine venues.
He said he hopes the concerts, new arena and the recent growth of Hollywood Casino will draw new restaurants and hotels to the waterfront area.
“This is very much the field of dreams,” Gray said. “We built it, and they are coming.”