Friday, August 3, 2012

Cooperation is Key to Changes at Comcast Center

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 3, 2012


By Bill Gouveia

I recently wrote of the ongoing feud between one Mansfield selectman and the general manager of the Comcast Center. I said they needed to work together to solve what problems exist at the popular concert venue, and to understand people were tuning them out.

Now two people have died from substance abuse while attending a “rave” concert, and that changes the way people look at the facility and the way the Comcast Center must look at itself. Fair or unfair, right or wrong, town officials and Comcast Center authorities no have no choice but to set aside past differences and concentrate on what needs to be done going forward.

This is no time for political posturing. The deaths of these two young people are horrific tragedies, made even more so by the fact they appear to have been the result of personal behavior. It would be wrong to use these deaths as a means to achieve political goals. It would be equally wrong if the Comcast Center ignored the circumstances surrounding the situation and offered no changes on their own.

The Comcast Center did not supply the drugs that killed these patrons. They did not force them to take them. They should not be held responsible for the bad choices these individuals may have made. But as the holder of an entertainment license they have a responsibility to provide as safe and secure an environment as possible. They clearly need to make stronger efforts in that regard.

What is perhaps most clear is that the “rave” type of concerts simply can no longer be held at this venue. The physical layout of the Comcast Center does not allow for proper security for this type of event. You can call that unfair and discriminatory to the mostly younger crowd that attends – most of whom behave in a responsible manner – but it is clearly the truth. In addition, the noise generated by these concerts is much more a problem than any other type of event and neighbors far and wide have complained regularly.

Mansfield’s Chief of Police has weighed in expressing severe reservations about this type of show, and his concerns should be addressed. Not only would selectmen be wise to refuse to license any further concerts of this particular type, but the Comcast Center should voluntarily step forward and announce they will no longer host them.

But this awful situation involving two deaths should not be used as a reason to institute such security measures as searching vehicles on the way into the parking lot, or placing drug-sniffing dogs at entrances to the center. There is no indication they would be effective in solving the problem of a small percentage of patrons who abuse substances while there. If someone is determined to get drunk or take pills, they most likely will find a way.

But there are measures which have been suggested that can and should be considered and put in place. Checking tickets as patrons enter the parking lot seems reasonable. There is no reason for those without tickets to be in the lot. That may put a crimp in those who like to hang out at Jimmy Buffet concerts, but that’s a small price to pay.

Increasing security personnel may also be necessary, but that is more difficult to judge. When that has been increased, there have been more people arrested. Some see that as an indication it has worked. Others see it as justifying the need for even more security. For some, no level of security may be enough to satisfy them.

The shooting at a cinema in Ohio cannot and should not lead us to installing metal detectors and conducting searches at movie theaters. The terrible events of last week at the Comcast Center should not lead us to subjecting all patrons to searches and drug dogs. We simply cannot let the bad behavior of a few rule the lives of the many, at least not in this way.

At the same time, there must be adjustments and a renewed spirit of cooperation between town officials and the Comcast Center. That would be the best way to try and get something good out of the recent sad events.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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