The Zac Brown Band concert today is nearly sold out, and authorities want to make sure people know not to bring alcohol to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
State park police will enforce a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol for the third year in a row, screening cars for booze as they enter the park and requiring anyone who has alcohol in their car to dump it. People can be ticketed or thrown out of the park if they refuse to comply or become belligerent.
As the summer concert season opens at SPAC, authorities said at a press conference Thursday that some concert-goers have left their alcohol at home since more people know about the zero-tolerance policy that started in 2010.
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“I think some people have kind of learned from that,” said state park police Chief Richard O’Donnell. “That was our ultimate goal.”
Authorities have faced challenges in changing the attitude toward drinking at SPAC, said Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III.
“There were lots of people out there who said, ‘You can never do it. It won’t work. People won’t get into the concerts on time,’ ” Murphy said.
Instead, things went smoothly with the preventive measures.
“The crime rate, which is low to begin with in Saratoga County ... has continued at this venue to go down and down,” Murphy said.
It is difficult to compare the number of crimes and the amount of alcohol confiscated, however, because the first year of the policy, 2010, was a busier year for concerts than last year.
This summer promises to be a blockbuster, with the Dave Matthews Band returning for two nights after a year hiatus and Phish playing three nights.
The year is a big one all over the state for concerts. As the Zac Brown Band plays at SPAC tonight, Brad Paisley plays at Jones Beach on Long Island. That schedule is challenging to state park police, who often work overtime to cover concerts and travel around the state.
“We move resources as we need them,” O’Donnell said.
State park police have four horses, which patrol with mounted officers during popular concerts.
“The horse is a force multiplier,” O’Donnell said, noting that their size makes the officers more visible, allows them to see farther and lets them move through crowds with greater ease.
“People will move for the horse,” he said.
At concerts this summer, police also expect to be on the lookout for drunk drivers and underage drinkers.
“If you’re coming to the concerts, stay in compliance with the rules and regulations,” O’Donnell said. “When you come, enjoy what’s here; don’t leave any litter behind.”
O’Donnell also urged parents not to drop their children off too early for concerts, to minimize the time they’ll be hanging out unsupervised before the show.
State park and SPAC officials hope concert-goers show respect for the venue, which this year sports a fresh new facade built with a $500,000 donation from Bill and Susan Dake.
“We expect that people will be responsible,” said Marcia White, SPAC president and executive director. “We don’t want to see headlines other than we had a great SPAC summer.”
SPAC draws about 300,000 visitors a year for its classical music and popular concerts, White said.