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Customer Claims Lax Security for Keith Concert

Selectmen rethinking their agreements with Comcast Center.

Reports of rowdy and dangerous crowd behavior at some of this season's concerts have left a bitter aftertaste at Mansfield selectmen's meetings, and even after the close of the season Sept. 17, the complaints continue.

The board received another letter from a concert customer this week, this time related to issues at the Sept. 17 Toby Keith "Locked and Loaded" concert, the last concert of the 2011 season. The writer said he had bought tickets for his family, including two teenaged daughters, thinking a country western concert would be tame and well behaved. Apparently he has changed his mind, after witnessing what Mansfield board members have come to understand is a typical parking lot drinking scene.

Calling the event "a huge letdown," the man described lax security, open drinking, and ongoing "beer pong" games by the crowd, compounded by the theft of gas grills and other equipment.

"It was a free and easy excessive drinking binge," read board clerk Doug Annino from the letter.

The board is getting ready to begin meeting with the Comcast center General Manager Bruce Montgomery to kick off the yearly negotiations for the center's entertainment license, and this year they have vowed to direct the subcommittee charged with that task to include drinking problems and excessive noise.

Casting a pall over this year's summer season is the worst incident of violence the town has seen since the venue opened as "Great Woods" more than 20 years ago - . The youth was airlifted out with numerous injuries after being repeatedly kicked on the ground.

Although that brawl was certainly the capper, other complaints abound, many stemming from in the drinking that continues despite efforts by the center's security forces and local police.

Board chairman Jess Aptowitz, who has attended a number of this summer's concerts, said he was there at the Toby Keith event as well.

"The police were very busy," he said, adding 99 percent of the offenders were "minors in possession." One attendee caught his attention. "He was very young," Aptowitz said. "It was sad."

Aptowitz commented Town Manager Bill Ross, who is on vacation this week, had already sent Montgomery a memo on his concerns about the Keith concert, in light of the letter the board had received from the customer.

Board member George Dentino told the board he wants a repeat appearance by Montgomery, both to discuss the Keith concert, and to address issues raised after the "Identity" tour in August, when an auxiliary stage caused excessive noise that could be heard in various parts of town. Montgomery was recently at a selectmen's meeting, to review security procedures in the assault situation.

"There have been many complaints and letters," said Annino. "We should have him in here mid-season and at the end. Everybody has gotten calls - there is a frustration level that people have to express."

But Annino said Montgomery should at least be offered a chance to comment. "It's not fair to complain about him when he's not here," he said.

The board may ask Montgomery to come in at a later date, and include public safety personnel as well, after they determine what Ross said to him in the memo he sent to Montgomery last week.

The board is not meeting next week because of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, on the 29th.

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