Much like the outcome of the game itself (Chiefs 42, Patriots 27), expectations exceeded reality Thursday for the NFL season kickoff celebration on Boston’s North End waterfront at Christopher Columbus Park.
When a “surprise musical guest” was teased as part of a large NFL Kickoff in Boston, rumors quickly spread that Bon Jovi would be performing. A massive security effort was organized to surround the entire park with visually screened fencing, high level concert scanners, bomb sweeps, sniffing dogs and “first-come, first-serve” restricted access through a single entrance on Atlantic Avenue. The league pushed for a complete takeover of the prime waterfront location at Christopher Columbus Park, according to city officials, rather than using the more typical City Hall Plaza or part of Boston Common. Dozens of police and city staff were on hand for the setup of the locked-down waterfront venue.
The prospect for overwhelming crowds at the free event turned more modest when the NFL announced that Miguel would be singing his R&B hits instead of a large scale, arena-like show. Still, at least it was a grammy award winner with broad appeal. On with the show! But then, the Miguel show didn’t happen either. On the night before, the NFL said the R&B artist was feeling ill. Filling in would be the local alt-rock band, Guster.
And so, the show went on, and it was fine. A decent crowd gathered in front of the stage as Guster put on an energetic 45-minute set. The lead singer admitted he knew next to nothing about football but that didn’t seem to matter. Former Patriots stars Rodney Harrison and Willie McGinest came out to be part of the celebration. Before the concert, there was a screening of “America’s Game,” celebrating the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI winning season. And, there were giveaways to get the crowd fired up. The winner of the season opener tickets, Ross Chanowski, made a generous gesture by offering his tickets to a “dreamer” immigrant.
It was clear, however, that those worried about “first-come, first-served” warnings would not have a problem. The NFL live stream did a masterful job of showing the front row crowd so as not to make it obvious that the park lawn was largely empty in the rear. And despite the extensive preparations at the park, the event itself was brief. By 1:30 p.m., it was all over.
The event got us thinking … was it overkill to take over an entire city park in our neighborhood for what amounted to a marketing event? When asked why the Harborwalk could not be left open for people to walk through the park, officials cited a public safety concern because the area was being used as backstage for the performance. The preparation that closed the park was longer than the event itself. At 6pm, the massive amount fencing and other security measures were still being deconstructed.
We confirmed with city officials that the NFL did not pay the city to use the park. Unlike an arena or private facility, Boston Parks Department does not charge to use its unique venues. An estimate for security was not available at the time.
City officials asked the NFL to make a donation to the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park. As of this writing, that has not happened but FOCCP officers remain hopeful. Along with meticulously tending to the park, the group is trying to bring back New Year’s Eve fireworks to the waterfront and could use the money.
Should the NFL have paid to use the city park for its concert just like any other private venue? Take the poll and let us know what you think in the comments below.