Remember when one of our most beloved local pastimes was complaining about traffic?
Doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?
And among the favorite targets of those complaints used to be the outdoor entertainment meccas that made our little corner of Southeastern Massachusetts one of the hot spots of the East Coast when it came to popular music.
Xfinity Center, née Great Woods many years ago, would draw upwards of 20,000 paying customers to its outdoor amphitheater in Mansfield, from relatively mellow Parrothead fans of Jimmy Buffet to hardcore rap and metal band followers.
Gillette Stadium, after a fall filling its 60,000 seats and nearby parking lots with sometimes disruptive members of Patriot Nation on any given Sunday (or Monday or Thursday) would draw similar sized crowds to Foxboro for such megastars as Taylor Swift.
TPC Boston, actually located just down Route 140 from Xfinity and across the town line in Norton, would in recent years attract some of the world’s top golfers for PGA tour events. And while the PGA would never do anything so vulgar as to report attendance figures, gallery sizes must have numbered in the thousands for these Labor Day weekend events.
The aftermath of those events in past years was predictable as a summer heat wave.
Neighbors of the venues would complain about noise. Town officials would lament the disruption of traffic as fans arriving and departing clogged local streets (and sometimes trespassed on private property.) Police departments would be occasionally overwhelmed with protective custody cases as patrons overindulged in their intoxicants of choice.
(In recent years, traffic issues were exacerbated by navigation apps as they directed drivers away from traffic jams, only to create new bottlenecks on streets never designed to handle such volume.)
This summer, the stage at Xfinity Center is empty. Gillette Stadium is still waiting for its first hint of football and TPC? Well, the course will actually host a FedEx cup tournament event but without pastel-clad crowds of fans. (You will be able to watch on TV, however,)
Massachusetts emergency shutdown of all “nonessential” businesses in March — and subsequent restrictions on public gatherings — have meant dozens of shows, concerts and other events have been canceled or postponed. The impact on local people and the local economy has been huge.
While it’s hard to assign exact numbers, in today’s Weekend story, Live Nation, which owns Xfinity, claims its shows pump up to $20 million into the local economy, between summer jobs for locals and cash flowing to area restaurants and convenience stores. The economic impact of the other venues is, we would argue, proportional.
So when the rock stars and the rappers and the monster truck shows return — as they will one day — let’s recall the cost of not having them around.
And just enjoy the luxury of complaining about traffic once more.