If you’re coming to the Twilight Concert Series with the intent of hearing the band, get here early and don’t leave the pier.
Large crowds have filled the Santa Monica Pier’s concert venue to capacity in the past two weeks and officials are expecting another large crowd this week due the continued popularity of the series and the particular draw of the July 21 bands.
Fire Chief Bill Walker said crowd estimates for the first two shows were about 35,000 people per week. He said the pier deck has a maximum capacity of about 4,500 with the remaining attendees spread across the beach. The July 7 and 14 shows reached capacity relatively quickly and many would-be concertgoers were redirected to the beach, a process that will repeat this week.
Pier Board chair Judy Abdo said officials have a responsibility to manage the crowd, and crowd expectations, regardless of its size.
“When the pier deck is closed because there’s a large crowd, we need to be really clear with people why it’s happening and that it’s happening and we need to watch really carefully to see if there’s room on the deck to see if we can let more people in,” she said.
“It will be better this week from everything I’ve heard, including having signage as people arrive if the deck is closed, letting people know right away they can go on the beach rather than have them come to the entry and be frustrated because they can’t come to the show.”
Both Police and Fire officials said larger crowds were requiring more staff but they were confident procedures were in place to address an emergency should one occur.
“We got a little nervous with the crowds starting to become larger than we anticipated but we’ve had meetings with everyone involved and to an extent redesigned some things to ensure access and additional fire prevention people to assess the crowd and make good decisions,” said Walker. “We’re all working in concert to manage the overall event.”
Pier officials are meeting with police and fire representatives following each show to make changes week to week. So far, both agencies have increased staffing each week to handle not only those on the pier, but the ever-expanding beach crowds.
At the July 18 Pier Corporation Board Meeting, Pier Executive Director Jay Farrand said he expects to have the system refined by the third or fourth show. He said the series launch had been as smooth as possible with few problems and no major incidents to report.
“It’s ben a success all the way around so far,” he said.
Police and Firefighters have responded to a handful of calls related to the concerts but neither agency said the Thursday night shows were creating a significant spike in incidents.
Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez said his public safety concerns extended beyond the Pier’s footprint.
“Once the concert is over we get spillage out into the Downtown area and that brings some traffic control issues,” he said. “That’s part of what’s going into the assessment we’re doing.”
Walker said firefighters are particularly focused on maintain access to allow emergency medical responders into and out of the show.
“For us, access to get in to someone whose having an issue is a challenge because the crowd just is dispersed everywhere and they keep expanding to areas that they weren’t because there’s just more people,” he said.
Officials said anyone planning to attend the show or visit the pier on a Thursday night needs to be patient and flexible to accommodate not only the show, but also the Pier’s other uses including Pacific Park, restaurants and the emerging Pokémon Go phenomenon.
“The first two concerts have been very well attended,” said Abdo. “There are a couple of things that are question marks and wild cards. One is Pokémon. Is that bringing people to the pier in and of itself and that happens to correspond to the concert? Nobody knows that really. We’ll have to watch and see if that has any impact and I’m not sure we could do anything about that anyway.”