BEND, Ore. - The Old Mill District shopping area in Bend is closing the area east of the Deschutes River for ticketed concerts for the first time in 11 years of operation.
Officials said Friday they are making the closure to better promote the Les Schwab Amphitheater as a profitable concert venue for musical acts.
They said that the free viewing area is a deterrence for some agents booking big-name performers.
"The climate of the concert industry has changed significantly," said Marney Smith, the venue's manager said. "They don't make money off of CD sales -- they make money off of tours. The only way we're going to keep bands coming here is if we show them they can make money here."
Smith also said that sometimes there can be more than 3,000 people in the free viewing zones -- and sometimes 50 percent of the amphitheater's attendance.
Protecting the wildlife and restoration areas near the river is also a big concern for the Old Mill District, she said.
Old Mill managers are also hoping that closing the area will lead to a safer concert-going experience and a cleaner Old Mill. Smith said that people were leaving trash and that others weren't using the portable restrooms they provided.
At least some restaurant owners along the closed path said they are okay with the closure. Rob Ramaker, the general manager of Greg's Grill, said he expects it might drive business into the restaurants instead.
"Well, with the grass area closed, most likely people are going to find an alternative spot to enjoy the venue," Ramaker said.
The first closure takes place this Sunday at the Michael Franti concert.
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