Tampa Shed Exceeds Limit

When it comes to controlling noise levels at Tampa, Fla.’s Ford Amphitheatre, the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Committee suddenly finds itself unable to enforce its own rules. But then that’s the deal the EPC made with venue operator Clear Channel Entertainment

The situation hit home when a December 3rd Alan Jackson / Lee Ann Womack concert went way past noise limits.

“It was one of the loudest concerts I’ve heard yet,” neighbor Edward Schroering told the St. Petersburg Times. “It seems like Clear Channel knows they can’t be cited. They have this free hand to turn it up.”

CCE’s Cellar Door South division COO Wilson Rogers told Pollstar the volume issue specifically came during Womack’s opening set. There were few, if any, problems while Jackson performed, he said.

Apparently, Womack’s sound engineer was using a device that allowed him to move around the venue. The shed has installed a piece of equipment that signals a warning when volume levels exceed the county’s standard. But when the alarm went off, venue officials couldn’t locate the sound engineer.

“At that point, our guys didn’t really know what to do,” Rogers said. “[The engineer] wasn’t there where he could see the alarms going off.”

Another part of the problem was that night’s unusually cold weather. The low temperature coupled with low humidity and no breeze affected sound travel, he said.

Rogers hopes to better correct problems that may arise at the venue.

“We’re working real hard and we’ll continue to work real hard,” he said. “I hope we can figure out all the issues that might come up.”

The noise battle has been raging for about a year. The EPC filed suit against CCE in December 2004, seeking to halt concerts at the 20,000-seat shed until the promoter could meet sound regulations.

Concerts have regularly exceeded noise limits during the summer and fall, but none measured levels as high as that of the Jackson/Womack performance, according to EPC records. Commission staffers reportedly recorded sound levels at 23 and 26 decibels higher than allowed.

But there’s not much the EPC can do about it since it voted November 17th to halt the county’s lawsuit against CCE. In exchange, the company agreed to build a 70-foot-high sound barrier wall, lower the height of lawn speakers and install sound-limiting electronic devices on speakers.

The EPC has given Clear Channel until December 31, 2006, to comply and agreed to stop citing the company until then. But the commission has reportedly asked CCE to indicate actions it will take to prevent a recurrence of the Jackson/Womack concert.

Meanwhile, EPC attorney Rick Tschantz told the Times he still believes the compromise is a good one, saying CCE has agreed to provide data from inside the amphitheatre about noise levels, which it refused to do before. If the data isn’t provided, the county can cancel the agreement.

CCE has also agreed to have people in nearby neighborhoods measure noise levels during concerts and call the sound engineers if violations are recorded; although, engineers will not be required to turn down the volume.

“That’s something they wouldn’t agree to do because it would limit the type of acts they could book,” Tschantz told the paper.

Mitchell Peters