Last year’s sold-out Mumford & Sons concert at the iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium may have been declared an impressive success by elected officials and community leaders, but some area residents hope the curtain comes down on any future shows.
At a town hall meeting on Tuesday night, West Side Tennis Club President Roland Meier and promotion company Madison House Presents President Mike Luba heard both complaints and compliments on their respective handlings of the Mumford & Sons concert and the future shows planned for this summer and beyond.
After a quick presentation by Meier about the history of the stadium, Austin Street business owner Alex Tola was one of the many people at Our Lady of Mercy in Forest Hills to emphatically speak up against the neighborhood icon, once again turning into a concert hall.
“I can’t tell you what torture it was that day, getting back and forth,” Tola said to the crowd of around 70 people. “What’s in it for us?”
Tola, a resident of Exeter Street in Forest Hills for the last two years, defended his stance against concerts being held at the venue by claiming the shows booked by Madison House Presents will bring disruptive noise and open drug use by spectators to the immediate area.
“You’re bringing that element. You’re inviting them in,” he said. “What’s next here, Jay-Z?”
After saying he would love to see rap legend Jay-Z perform in Forest Hills, Luba defended the concerts, saying the shows will continue if they prove to be successful and beneficial to the area.
“I don’t and the bands don’t have people doing drugs on your lawn,” Luba responded. “If the greater good justifies the inconveniences, then we’ll move forward and have lots of concerts.”
According to Luba, all concerts will end by 10 p.m. and there would be just six shows taking place this summer, including the already announced Zac Brown Band and Modest Mouse concerts.
Before being bombarded with complaints, he briefly described the renovations ongoing at the stadium to bring the nearly 100-year-old venue up to date.
In addition to a permanent stage, modeled after one in use at a former tennis stadium in Toronto, wider aisles, new seats and permanent handrails will be installed to make the concert-going experience more ideal.
Conversely, the stadium does not have permanent bathrooms, and temporary portable bathrooms were used for the Mumford & Sons concert.
Luba expects the same to be the case for all concerts this year, with the hope that permanent bathrooms will be constructed in time for any future 2015 shows.
Pointing to a picture of the iconic stadium, Forest Hills resident James Van Westering passionately spoke in favor of the concert series, saying the economic opportunities the shows would bring could be tremendous and letting the stadium go to waste would do the community a disservice.
“If you fill that stadium, you’re going to bring more economic activity to this borough than we’ve had in 40 years,” Van Westering said. “We have a wonderful opportunity. That is Forest Hills wherever you go, all over the world. For almost 100 years, it has represented the best of this community.”
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) didn’t take a stand for or against the shows, but she did praise the uptick in business due to last year’s show and knocked the claims of some individuals who contended disruptive and illegal activity swamped the area that day.
During the Mumford & Sons concert, the Councilwoman said she observed the crowds leaving the subways on Austin Street and was pleased with the calm nature of the crowd.
“There was nobody running around, nobody carrying on. It was very orderly,” Koslowitz said. “Whether we like the concerts or not, you can’t bash something that didn’t happen.”
Additional concerts are expected to be announced in the next few weeks, according to Luba, who says he expects to book top-tier musical acts in the coming years with the community’s blessing.
“You guys have a magic, special, iconic treasure that deserves to be preserved,” he said. “We’re going to try to bring world-class music back to Forest Hills.”
With a successful folk rock concert already in the books and a country show planned for June, indie rock will be the next genre of music to come to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.
On Aug. 9, Modest Mouse, a critically acclaimed Washington state-based band, will join Merrick, LI act Brand New for a 6:30 p.m. show at the iconic stadium. The venue, which is undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation in preparation for the shows, will host the Grammy award-winning Zac Brown Band on June 21, 10 months after ultra popular folk rock group Mumford & Sons played Forest Hills in the stadium’s first concert in nearly two decades.
Tickets were scheduled to go on sale today at 12 p.m. on ticketfly.com. There is a ticket limit of four per order. Other acts will be announced in a few weeks.
Alterations to the stadium include the construction of a permanent stage and the installation of new seats, permanent handrails and wider aisles.
However, the construction of permanent bathrooms isn’t part of this year’s renovation plans.