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Hard Rock Free Ride Comes to an End

By Frank Parlato

Looks like a lot of people right? A careful count shows that there are about 1,000 people attending this Hard Rock concert. The public paid $40,000. That equates to paying $40 per person to attend this ‘FREE’ concert.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has been a longtime critic of the Hard Rock concert series. Upon its demise, it is incumbent upon us to dissect it.

The main beneficiary, obviously, was the Hard Rock Cafe, which managed to get exclusive concessions for food, beverage and souvenirs on Old Falls Street almost at the gate of the Niagara Falls State Park during the busiest nights of the tourist season. And to make it even sweeter, taxpayers paid the tab for their musical entertainment.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster was the other beneficiary. He had an “artistic” say in picking the acts; he introduced the acts onstage and met the stars backstage. And thus he was able to say, during his re-election campaign, that he brought an exciting music concert series to the downtown area.

The numbers of attendees at the concerts have long been a subject of dispute between the mayor and this publication.

It began when the Reporter estimated that the concert featuring Sugar Ray attracted 500 people. The Mayor said Sugar Ray attracted 5,000.

The concert was held on Saturday, a night in July, some 200 feet from the Niagara Falls State Park. Being the height of the tourist season, during the course of the concert, it was true, perhaps, that 5,000 people walked past the stage to and from the state park. Some undoubtedly stopped for a moment to look at Sugar Ray, before moving on to their destination. Had an unknown street singer with a tip jar been there, those same 5,000 people would have passed by and perhaps also stopped and possibly even put a tip in the jar.

Unlike the street singer, who gets paid by tips, the city tipped Hard Rock $40,000 to stage Sugar Ray, a group that usually books for around $15,000.

It was intriguing, as a side note, that the lead singer of Sugar Ray, Mark McGrath, told his small concert audience that Niagara Falls was a great place to visit, explaining, “where else can you go where the mayor of the city comes backstage and does shots with you?”

Throughout the concert series, there was never a cost/benefit analysis performed by the city.

It is hard to believe that people would come to town, book a hotel for $100 or more to see a free concert by some has–been act, and not the falls, even if there were rooms available during the biggest two months of the tourist season.

The mayor also said he believed the concerts provided revenue at the city-owned parking ramp which, he said, increased on nights when Hard Rock concerts were held.

He perhaps did not know, or care to mention, that Saturdays in July and August are - as the biggest tourist days of the year – historically the highest parking revenue days of the year.

Earlier this year, the Reporter provided hard evidence on parking revenue.

Unlike in the summer, when thousands come to see the falls, there are few tourists to see the falls in winter. Hard Rock was paid to stage New Year’s Eve concerts as well.

If people came for concerts then, as the mayor said they did, we would surely expect to see it reflected in parking revenues on New Year’s Eve.

The Reporter made FOIL requests for parking revenue for December 31, for the years 2009 – 2011 for all city parking lots.
All told, the city paid Hard Rock $123,000 for the three New Year’s concerts.

All told, the city collected a total of $3,097 in parking revenue, a loss of $119,903.

Funny too, for the December 31, 2010 concert, featuring Smash Mouth, Hard Rock got $50,000 (for a $15,000 act).
The Reporter pegged the audience at 1,200 people.

The mayor said the concert drew 12,000.

They must have walked to the concert because the city took in just $1,105 in parking revenue. At $5 per car, they parked 221 cars.

In any event, the Hard Rock series has ended and, thanks to the council majority consisting of Glenn Choolokian, Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson, the billion dollar Hard Rock won’t be back feeding on the beleaguered taxpayers.

Taxpayers can keep a little more of their hard earned money; Hard Rock will stay afloat thanks to their other enterprises, and the Dyster will have the fond memory of how he spent $648,000 of the people’s money to act like a groupie, onstage with the stars and backstage, even getting drunk, trading shots with the band, like groupies always hope to do.

A nice gig for Hiz Honor has mercifully come to an end, to the benefit of taxpayers.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 05 , 2013