Traffic

Many who attended the first concert last August at the newly-opened FirstBank Amphitheater were met with disappointment after being forced to wait in traffic for hours.

While the concerts themselves at the 138-acre Thompson's Station music venue formerly known as the Graystone Quarry Amphitheater went off without a hitch, guests continued to be met with hours of traffic both when arriving and leaving the venue.

On Tuesday during a Thompson's Station Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, the amphitheater's CEO and owner Rick McEachern told town leaders what he and his team were working on to remedy the problem.

FirstBank Amphitheater

The FirstBank Amphitheater seats 7,500 people and is among the largest outdoor music venues in the state.

"Last year we opened the amphitheater and we had some really great memories made there; we also had some traffic you heard about," McEachern said.

"Obviously there was some traffic issues last year; none were predicted in the three traffic studies that we did to be as severe as it turned out to be. So we looked at that and we watched it. I personally watched it, four hours a night for each of the 11 concerts."

McEachern went on to say that through multiple meetings with the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, as well as with the engineering firm Kimley-Horn, he and his team had created a plan to help alleviate the issue.

One such suggestion was creating an additional access lane from Lewisburg Pike to the Graystone property, something McEachern said would "make a huge, huge difference."

McEachern also said each parking field at the venue now has its own dedicated internal lane, allowing more cars to access Les Watkins Road quicker. Better signage was brought up as a means to help give clearer directions to drivers, as was implementing a program to help stagger guests' arrival by offering early arrival incentives like food and beverage services.

McEachern said his team had even reached out to Google and Apple to help the company's map services better direct guests to the venue.

"All of this is the short-term plan; this gets us some significant improvements," McEachern said.

"We will also see a significant improvement once the Buckner interchange is completed. When that happens, instead of sending all traffic west toward I-840, what we'll do is split the traffic, half east and half west."

Given the severity of the traffic seen during all of the venue's 11 events held last year, Alderman Brandon Bell asked McEachern what misjudgments were made during the traffic study process.

"As best I can tell, the original traffic studies anticipated higher than 20 cars per minute as a baseline down Harpeth School Road to Lewisburg [Pike]; in the real world, things change sometimes and that's what happened here," McEachern said.

As an example, McEachern explained how "almost 70 percent" of drivers would stop at a stop sign heading south on Les Watkins Road, despite a police officer signifying to motorists to keep driving. McEachern said instances like these could not be predicted in the traffic study, and in this one case, created "an accordion effect" of traffic congestion.

With a sold-out event seeing an average of 3,000 cars, and with 18-20 shows anticipated for the 2022 season, time will tell if McEachern's plans will help reduce event traffic congestion.