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Low-priced tickets may replace free concerts at Canalside in future

Concertgoers came – and kept coming – to Canalside Thursday night to hear hip-hop artist T-Pain.

By the time the rapper-singer took the stage, security clickers were at 25,000 people.

To prevent dangerous overcrowding, security kept late-comers out with metal barriers – until a surge of “thousands” of young people overwhelmed the barriers, according to Buffalo police. That is why officers removed the barriers to avoid injury, and summoned extra police as a precaution.

No injuries or arrests were reported, and the largest summer concert was peaceful. But the event Thursday is causing a reassessment of concerts at Canalside, and changes are being considered for next year.

“We will re-evaluate things because of what happened, no question about it,” said Tom Dee, president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which oversees Canalside.

The changes already anticipated in the next couple of years include:

• The bandstand likely will be moved to one of two earlier locations, the Central Wharf or on a nearby grassy area. That would require limiting attendance to smaller crowds, in the range of 10,000.

•  The free concerts may become low-priced ticketed shows.

These possible changes also are the result of a historic carousel being located by 2018 where the current bandstand is now. The grassy area is being eyed for development and a request for proposals may go out this year.

Ticketing could have the benefit to ensuring those who are there for the music get in, Dee said.

“We’ve been talking about whether we should charge an admission price for a long time,” Dee said. “A lot of people come in for the scene, and not necessarily because they enjoy the music. We may want to try to keep it more pure, for the people who are there for the music.”

But Dee said the agency has decided the Thursday night concerts need to remain at Canalside, with concerts expected to draw bigger crowds moving to the Outer Harbor, where they have been staged in the past, on a different night of the week.

“We love the concept of the Thursday night concerts, and we want to keep them at Canalside,” Dee said.

The agency was surprised by the size of the crowd because T-Pain was a fill-in act for the originally scheduled Coolio.

Dee chalked up the big crowd to several factors, including good weather, other entertainment options in and around Buffalo and being the next-to-last show before school starts.

There was a constant flow of people entering and leaving throughout the night, Dee said. There was also plenty of open space on the boardwalk and by the “Silent Poets” installation, he said, but the crowd was “bumper-to-bumper” near the stage.

The safest call after thousands of people surged forward was to remove the barrier, Central District Chief Joseph Gramaglia said.

“We all collaborated and decided the best thing to do was to open up the fences,” Gramaglia said.

Gramaglia said the crowd overall was well-behaved, and left the concert peacefully.

Dee said what shouldn’t be overlooked was how much the multiracial crowd enjoyed itself.

“People were having a lot of fun. It speaks to what our goal is, which is to get people onto the water’s edge and to enjoy Canalside,” Dee said. “It was a good event and a lot oo fun for a lot of people. It was safe and without incident, which makes us all proud.”


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