By Gabe Ross | May 8, 2020 at 12:54 PM EDT – Updated May 8 at 1:59 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – When construction started along the Wilmington Downtown Waterfront in 2019, organizers of the Downtown Sundown concert series had to adapt to a change in venue.
Little did they know that one year later, a pandemic with a name that sounds like a headlining band would unplug the sound system before they could even get a sound check.
The concerts were originally scheduled to start Friday, May 22. They have been postponed until restrictions on gatherings are lifted.
“What we have done a WDI, Inc. is to do everything we can behind the scenes to be ready to go if the order is allowed to have gatherings of this kind of size,” said Ed Wolverton, president of Wilmington Downtown, Inc. “We do have bands that are tentatively booked, we have the space that’s been rented, we have made provisions for most of our vendors to be ready to go. If there is an order that allows gatherings of a particular size, then we could conceivably wrap those up sometime this season.”
According to WDI, concert attendance averaged about 30,000 people in 2019, or nearly 2,000 per week.
Wolverton said it was a conscious decision not to cancel, as the concerts do more than provide music… every week the concert benefits an area charity through alcohol sales and drives dollars to area businesses.
“As we shift to recovery mode, that ability to bring people downtown is magnified even further,” Wolverton said. “We still have to bring people downtown to enjoy the shops and restaurants, so that’s the reason we have maintain the flexibility to start the event up, if we get the proper permissions from state and local health officials.”
Staffing and volunteer constraints limit the ability of WDI to hold concerts even at a reduced capacity.
With no time frame or definitive numbers in place, Wolverton said all they can do is wait. That wait translates into a loss of income for the non-profit organization, which sees between 20-25 percent of its annual income from the concerts.
“We’re not spending any money, but we’re also not making any money,” said Wolverton.
The WDI president was optimistic that the concert season may be salvaged, but said the concerts will likely be abbreviated, as to not compete with rescheduled events and fall sports.
“We’re going to do everything that we need to do to meet those health regulations and health requirements, Wolverton said. “If it does mean that we can’t have shows for the season, we’re resolved to that fact, too.”
If the concerts resume, you’ll notice a few changes to the layout and operation of their temporary Market and Second streets location, based on feedback from emergency officials.
“We kept second Street open in front of the parking lot last year this year we would probably close and then allow for a little extra room as well,” Wolverton added. “We’ll involve at least two local breweries through the entire season and we have three new bands that we’re going to be coming in.”
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