With summer festivals that close downtown streets to vehicular and even pedestrian traffic for days, along with an increase in the number of people living in that area, Mayor Charles Sammarone is proposing some events consider relocating next year to the nearby Covelli Centre.
The city is receiving complaints from some downtown residents about festivals that block access to their apartments and vehicles and are too noisy, the mayor said.
Some downtown business owners have complained that event organizers put up gates in front of their buildings — sometimes two days before a festival starts — making it difficult for customers and clients to park nearby and even walk to the businesses, Sammarone added.
“With people living downtown, it’s their neighborhood, and we don’t want it to be noisy or difficult for them to leave their homes,” he said.
And blocking main downtown streets for days for several weekends during the summer can be frustrating, Sammarone said.
“I get hot myself trying to get around downtown,” he said.
There are, however, other downtown businesses, particularly restaurants and bars, that like the festivals near their locations as it increases traffic and profits.
The mayor suggests some of the larger downtown events — such as the Youngstown Jazz Fest and the Greater Youngstown Italian Festival — consider moving next summer to the parking area of the city-owned Covelli Centre on Front Street.
The center typically has a couple of outdoor events in the lot every summer, which is traditionally the slowest time of the year for the indoor facility. The annual Panerathon event will be Aug. 25.
The center’s parking area has plenty of room for the festivals and can be easily gated, Sammarone said.
The obstacle to having events at the center in the past was Centerplate served as the center’s food-and-beverage vendor and controlled those services at the facility, the mayor said.
But those services were taken over in April 2012 by JAC Management, the company that runs the day-to-day operations at the center. The new arrangement provides more money for the city and greater flexibility for the center’s food-and- beverage services, Sammarone said.
The city has discussed building an amphitheater in the back of the center since early 2011 to help make money during the summer.
Sammarone wants to revisit the idea, saying it will generate more money for the facility.
In April 2011, Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director, said construction of an amphitheater for 2,500 to 3,500 people would cost between $600,000 and $1 million.