The total cost of this project is estimated to be $602,719, with a completion goal of late 2023. The Town will be seeking additional funds through other grant opportunities to supplement the Town's Capital Improvement Budget.
On Friday, Aug. 5, Governor McKee announced $2.9 million in grants to support the tourism, hospitality, and events industries in Rhode Island, with a focus on developing outdoor and public space capital improvements or event programming — and the Town of Bristol was one of the 32 recipients statewide, receiving $150,000 to construct a permanent bandstand on the field closest to the water at the Town Beach and Sports Complex.
The grants, organized through the RI Rebounds Placemaking Program, are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.
"We're building on Rhode Island's momentum by making strategic investments in the tourism, hospitality and events industries by supporting projects that draw visitors to communities," said Governor McKee. "It's all about bringing people back together in places that are meant to serve as hubs of activity."
Bristol’s grant proposal was prepared by Economic Development Coordinator Chris Vitale, who emphasized that the existing design is a preliminary concept and is not final. Vitale’s grant request was for $200,000. The total cost of this project is estimated to be $602,719, with a completion goal of late 2023.
The Town will be seeking additional funds through other grant opportunities to support the project, and the remainder would be funded through the Town's Capital Improvement Budget.
“This project would support Bristol's local economy by increasing its capacity to hold larger festivals and events throughout the year,” wrote Vitale in the application. He cited as one example a 2018 economic impact study of the Black Ships Festival, which brought in a combined crowd of 3,514 and a local economic impact of over $100,000.
The study noted that about 70 percent of attendees said that the festival was the reason they were in Bristol. Another example cited was the annual British Motorcar Festival, which is already held at Colt Park.
“The Town Beach complex has the collection of amenities, staff, and parking,” said Vitale. “We could host events on top of what already happens here annually.”
The application also noted that a permanent structure versus a temporary stage will allow the Town to reinvest about $20,000 into the community annually.
A new home for the 4th concert series?
While that concert series is not the reason for proposing a bandstand at the Town Beach, the Town would certainly make it available if that was the will of the Committee.
“That decision is up to the July 4th Committee,” said Vitale.
Chuck MacDonough, 2022/23 General Chairman of the 4th of July Committee, says it’s too soon, and too little is known to be making any near-term plans for moving the concert series from Independence Park.
“The Committee was made aware of the desire of the town to build a stage at the town beach area comparable to what we erect for the concerts,” said MacDonough, noting that the Committee’s written policy is that Independence Park is the location, “unless an alternate location is recommended to and voted on by the General Committee.”
Adding that until they know what savings could be achieved, and if the stage would suit their needs, “it is pure conjecture to contemplate a move from Independence Park.”
“Once those details are understood, I would expect there would be a formal review process, initiated by the then-Chairman of the General Committee, or by the Subcommittee Chairman,” MacDonough said. “I would say that the poor financial support from many concert-goers will force the continued financial review since the passing of the bucket raises substantially less than what is needed for the event to be self-sustaining. If the new stage is in fact comparable, and savings are such that allow the event to be held, without operating in the negative, the committee would have to at least discuss it.”