A few days after the December Big Ticket concert in Metropolitan Park rattled their windows, shocked their sensibilities and tried their patience, a group of St. Nicholas and South Shore residents sat down with Jacksonville City Councilmember Don Redman.
Their homes, on the St. Johns River directly across the water from the park, were ground zero for 16 hours of incessant loud music from multiple stages and f-bombs exploding in their ears, according to the residents. The concert didn’t end until midnight on Sunday.
“It was too loud, too long and too vulgar,” said Ginny Myrick, a Jacksonville City Councilmember from 1986 to 1994, who lives in St. Nicholas.
Some members of the South Shore Neighborhood Association were again shocked when they learned that Redman had introduced a bill to eliminate all 12 ticketed concerts exempted from the noise ordinance at Metropolitan Park.
“It was too extreme. We don’t know where that came from,” said Kathy Moore, a member of the South Shores group.
But the tempest has ended, at least for now, after the City Council voted unanimously on Jan. 22 to withdraw Redman’s bill.
Council President Bill Bishop appointed a committee to look into the issues surrounding Metropolitan Park concerts. Councilmember Denise Lee asked to chair the committee.
Suggestions have ranged from lowering the volume to redirecting the speakers to booking more family-friendly entertainment.
Redman told The Florida Times-Union he had introduced the bill as a way of forcing attention on the concerns of the residents. He did not respond to calls and emails from Folio Weekly.
David DeCamp, a spokesperson for Mayor Alvin Brown, said the administration is looking into alternatives to solve the problems.
“We specifically are interested in practices in other cities that have similar venues,” DeCamp said. “As you know, Mayor Brown has worked hard and increased Jacksonville’s role as a destination for sports and entertainment and has continued to support events that bring such investment to benefit the city.”
Kathy Moore, with the South Shores Neighborhood Association, was among those who had met with Redman and complained about the Big Ticket and Welcome to Rockville concerts, especially the vulgar language that infiltrated her home.
Still, she is pleased with the decision to withdraw the bill and the fact the neighborhood’s concerns were brought out in public.
“It is terrific. It created discussion,” she said. “Now maybe the committee can look at alternatives and put some parameters on it. It was silly to eliminate all 12. I am not disappointed, I’m pleased.”
She said she was forced to take her 3-year-old twins in the house because of the vulgar language.
Myrick had earlier asked Redman and the mayor’s office to withdraw the bill. She offered to help draft new language in the bill to resolve the controversy.
“I am happy with the outcome and am anxious to work out something which is agreeable to all parties,” she said. “I think a compromise is very doable with some oversight put in place, probably in the ordinance and the contracts, which recognize the surrounding neighborhoods need to be protected and respected.”
Helen Ashmead, who lives in the St. Nicholas area, said her main concerns are the foul language and the concerts that rock the area until late at night, especially on Sundays.
“The concerts add to the environment of the city,” she said. “I am against banning all concerts.”
Robert Goodman, a longtime Jacksonville disc jockey, said concerts are responsible for jobs of dozens of people, from those who set up the stages to vendors. Local hotels and restaurants also benefit from the shows.
“Concerts bring massive revenues to the city,” Goodman said.
There were eight ticketed events last year in Metropolitan Park, including The Big Ticket on Dec. 2 with an estimated 7,500 attending; Welcome to Rockville, also with an estimated 7,500 fans on April 29, and Fun Fest on May 11 and 12, with 15,000 attending, according to the city of Jacksonville. Other ticketed events were non-musical programs, like World of Nations and the annual Southeast US Boat Show.
Lisa Thomas, who used to live in St. Nicholas, said the music from across the St. Johns River was not a problem. She said the music could be heard outside, but not inside.
“The school was the loudest,” Thomas said of nearby Bishop Kenny High School. The roar of jets before a Jaguars game and fireworks from the stadium, directly across the street from Metropolitan Park, were much louder than any concerts from the park.
“The loudest thing I’ve ever heard is when U2 played at the stadium,” she said. “I look at it in a positive manner. I got to hear U2 for free.”
Another former St. Nicholas resident, Ben Jones, said he had no trouble dealing with the music from concerts or the jets flying over EverBank Field prior to the Jaguars games. He said the loudest concerts were when Michael Jackson and U2 performed in the stadium.
“It’s not that intolerable,” Jones said. “I am pretty much for leaving things the way they are.”
This is not a new problem for those living on the edge of the river. In 1997, residents of St. Nicholas started a grassroots group, Citizens for Amphitheater Awareness, and were able to stop a plan by the John Delaney Administration to build a 20,000-seat amphitheater in Metropolitan Park. At that time, the main objection was noise from the concerts.
Jacksonville has a long, bumpy musical tradition. Elvis Presley appeared here several times, beginning in 1955. On his next visit, a judge warned The King that if he did his famous hip-gyrating movements, he'd go straight to jail. He complied that time, and would go on to make a total of eight appearances in Jacksonville.
On the tail of Hurricane Dora, The Beatles played a 30-minute concert in the Gator Bowl on Sept. 11, 1964. The performance was originally scheduled to be racially segregated, but The Beatles refused to play until they received an assurance from the promoter that the audience would be mixed.
“We never play to segregated audiences, and we aren’t going to start now. I’d sooner lose our appearance money,” said John Lennon, quoted on beatlesbible.com.
The Jacksons Victory Tour came to the Gator Bowl for three appearances July 21-23, 1984, selling out all three shows to a total of 135,000 screaming fans.
Most of the residents who talked with Folio Weekly attend events at Metropolitan Park and no one expressed any concerns about some of the signature events, like Jacksonville Jazz Festival and Spring Music Festival.
Myrick said she would like to see more family-friendly shows, but Goodman said those don’t draw enough fans to be successful.