One Reel Halts Summer Nights

The organizers of Seattle’s annual Summer Nights concert series canceled this year’s event February 28th, citing a lack of time to properly execute the series.

The city was facing a March 16th court hearing with a citizens group that opposed the series’ move to Gas Works Park this year.

“This is a hiatus,” Michele Scoleri of series organizer One Reel told Pollstar. “The only thing I’d add is that, as producer and programming director, we wanted to make sure we halted this in enough time so we could maintain our good relationships with our artists and agents and managers.

“This really was about timing rather than that it wouldn’t take place,” she added. “There simply wasn’t enough time with the issues that were brought up for us to feel comfortable moving forward.”

The mid-June to August series, which averages about 20 concerts, traditionally takes place on a Seattle pier, but had to move last year because of renovations to the site. Last year’s site, South Lake Union Park, is expected to be under construction this summer, causing the journey to Gas Works Park. The non-profit One Reel is also the longtime promoter of the Bumbershoot festival.

The city and One Reel announced the new location in December and immediately faced opposition. The citizens group, Friends of Gas Works Park, was concerned about traffic, noise and parking and planned to take the city and organizers to Superior Court. At issue was the lack of an environmental impact study for the new site.

Prior to this year’s cancellation, citizens group member Ben Schroeter told Pollstar he was confident the court would rule in the plaintiffs’ favor. A State Environmental Police Act (SEPA) was needed for use of the park, Schroeter said, adding that the pier did not because it was zoned for business and commerce.

“One Reel is a beloved local, civically minded nonprofit that provides wonderful arts for the City of Seattle,” Schroeter said. “They got screwed by the city.”

Public records show that Mayor Greg Nickels directed organizers to hold the event at Gas Works Park despite One Reel and Seattle Parks and Recreation dismissing the area as unviable, Schroeter said.

“There’s no proper access. There’s only a dumpy two-lane road that’s been neglected for decades. There’s no parking. It’s in the middle of a residential area. But the mayor told them that was the park they were going to use.”

“We want them to take a break for a year, come back, site it correctly, do the SEPA work and you’re good to go for next year.”

Scoleri declined to respond to his comments.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the city, the community and our partners to launch Summer Nights at Gas Works in June 2007,” a statement from One Reel said.

Schroeter said the hearing is still on the books because the series will need a SEPA.

“This is, in essence, round one,” he said. “This is going to be an ongoing issue until such time as One Reel and Seattle Parks find a more appropriate spot to house the series.”

– Joe Reinartz