Cellar Door Productions, a Virginia-based concert promoter, is eyeing a 110-acre site on Route 140 between Westminster and Finksburg for a 20,000-seat amphitheater.
Owner Dave Williams said he will visit the site this week but declined to disclose its location.
"Right now, I don't know Finksburg and Westminster from shoe polish," Williams said. "But I know the area would be a good marketplace."
Williams has been searching for a site in Carroll, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties for nearly two years.
Early last year, he looked at a 131-acre site at Springfield Hospital Center, calling the property along Route 32 "a lovely, lovely piece" -- ideal for his project.
But South Carroll residents strongly opposed the idea, saying it would overburden Route 32 -- an already congested two-lane highway. The state has no plans to widen the road for at least 10 years.
No such problem exists on Route 140 -- a four-lane divided highway that connects with Interstate 795 -- a 60-mph freeway leading to the Baltimore Beltway.
County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said Friday that he understands the citizen "uproar surrounding Springfield -- since the site was inappropriate," but thinks a Route 140 location could be ideal, given the I-795 connection.
"It would be foolish to turn our back [on Cellar Door] if we found another site in the county" that was appropriate, Brown said. Entertainment taxes alone would produce $1 million to $2 million a year in revenue, he said.
Williams has said he will not go where he is not welcome.
"All I can tell you is it all comes down to a user-friendly government and a user-friendly community," Williams said. "A community that wants you there.
"I don't want to go in to fight a war. If they don't want me there, I don't want to build."
Williams opened Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge near Manassas, Va., in 1995. Nissan is giving Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia stiff competition. As a promoter, Williams has attracted more popular acts to Nissan, often shutting out Merriweather.
He cited Carroll County's proximity to major highways, Baltimore and the southern Pennsylvania market as reasons for considering the Route 140 site, which he found with help from the county Department of Economic Development.
"I have heard this is a great deal," Williams said.
Other projects have diverted his attention, Williams said, but as this year's concert season opens, he is resuming his search for a Maryland venue.
"I have not devoted the time and energy needed to find a suitable location because of other projects, which I cannot discuss," Williams said. "But, I am looking in earnest now for an amphitheater site."
Brown would like Carroll to provide that site. He also sees the county as a potential entertainment center for people visiting historic sites within a 90-minute drive.
"Our location in relation to extremely significant sites is a plus for us," Brown said. "We are 25 miles from Gettysburg, 50 miles from Washington, 30 miles from Baltimore, 60 miles from Philadelphia."
Buoyed by the fact that Carroll's annual wine festival is among the top 100 events on a list compiled by the American Bus Association, Brown wonders whether Carroll might become a tourist destination similar to Branson, Mo., and would like the county to analyze the possibility.
Branson, an Ozark Mountain town of 3,740 people just north of the Arkansas border, calls itself "America's live entertainment capital."
The town is most noted for music shows in its 30 live theaters -- built in less than two decades -- but also boasts three lakes, theme parks, golf courses, restaurants and museums. Its first music venue opened in 1983.
Pub Date: 5/18/97