The Great Park amphitheater is before the Irvine City Council again.
On Tuesday, July 25, Irvine leaders will review an updated design, construction and operation agreement with events promoter and venue operator Live Nation during a special meeting and regularly scheduled council meeting.
In the new proposed agreement Live Nation has shared with Irvine, the city would be responsible for the design of the concert venue and oversee construction while Live Nation would purchase and install entertainment equipment and operate and maintain the facility.
Under the previous arrangement, Live Nation was expected to hire design consultants. Now, Irvine would have 90 days to get a design to Live Nation.
Irvine is also on the hook to construct parking with at least 4,500 spots, expected to cost the city around $40 million which will come from the Great Park Framework Plan fund, said City Manager Oliver Chi.
The proposed agreement says the city cannot charge a parking fee for the spaces during an event; Irvine would only be able to charge a parking fee for a city event. Live Nation, on the other hand, could charge a parking fee for both general use spaces and VIP parking during an event.
The total cost of the project could go up to $140 million — previously the amount was set at $130 million — with Irvine still on the hook for $110 million. Live Nation is expected to contribute up to $30 million toward construction and pay $3.5 million a year to the city for the use of the venue, increasing by 3% each year, according to the proposed agreement.
A representative for Live Nation did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Additional revenue streams have also been identified: Live Nation will charge $4 per ticket — a city facility maintenance fee — with all revenue generated going toward the city. However, this money, the new agreement stipulates, “has to be spent directly on items identified by Live Nation as city maintenance responsibilities,” Chi said.
(Originally, the agreement said Irvine could get a $2.50-per-ticket surcharge, a fee city officials estimated could bring in up to $1 million per concert session. This version did not have the maintenance condition.)
“There is a little less flexibility,” he said.
Other revenue Irvine is expected to earn includes a portion of ticket sales: $2 for each paid ticket up to 80,000 tickets sold; $3 for each paid ticket between 80,000 and 200,000 tickets; and $4 for each paid ticket beyond 200,000 tickets.
Given that the new proposed contract guarantees 25 events per year and on average, 9,000 tickets are sold per year, that equates to about 225,000 tickets annually, bringing the city $1 million more, on top of the $4 ticket surcharge money, each year, Chi said.
Last year, after councilmembers first approved the agreement with Live Nation, the concert promoter eventually proposed an “extensive reconfiguration of the deal,” said Chi. Given the extensive changes to the council-approved agreement, Chi said, city staff could not approve the counter agreement.
Staffers then brought a proposal to the council in February, providing an alternative plan for a smaller, city-managed amphitheater.
Some residents have spoken out about noise concerns from a large, 14,000-seat amphitheater, and under the latest agreement, Live Nation stipulates it will follow the city’s noise ordinance.
However, the noise ordinance, Chi said, does not include “dBC core base standard” — dB stands for decibels that measure the strength of a sound whereas the C is a filter that measures both low and high frequencies — and some residents could hear the lower frequency vibrations from concerts.
At Tuesday’s meeting, staffers will present a revised noise ordinance that takes this into account, he said, but the new contract could be approved without it. The city attorney’s office is reviewing the contract, he said.”
Councilmember Tammy Kim was the swing vote that approved continuing discussions with Live Nation, and she requested to bring the issue before Tuesday’s council meeting along with Councilmember Mike Carroll.
Kim said when she wanted to put the agreement on the agenda, she expected it to be ready in time for the meeting. But it is “not close to where it needs to be,” Kim said on Monday, but she was unable to pull it before the meeting.
“I would like to still pull it off the agenda so we have an opportunity to flush it out more, and we will find out tomorrow (Tuesday, June 25) if I have the votes to do that,” Kim said.
One of the points she wants to continue discussing with Live Nation is how many nights the venue will have a guaranteed event. The number is set at 25, but Kim wants to change that to 60.
Under the latest agreement, Live Nation still manages the calendar for the venue, which Kim said other concert promoters are reluctant to book into. To diversify the talent offerings — from K-pop to Bollywood to an Iranian star — Kim said, the city should be able to work with other concert promoters. And to do that, Kim said she has suggested the city and Live Nation hire a third party to manage the amphitheater’s calendar.
But Live Nation insists on owning the calendar so negotiations are still going on, she said.
Kim also wants the city to retain the rights for sponsorships, including title sponsorships. In the proposed agreement, Live Nation has all sponsorship rights, including the revenue generated from it. The concert promoter will ask the city for approval on the naming sponsor.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Kim said her focus is how to make this facility serve a public benefit when one entity, in this instance Live Nation, “controls all the various lines of revenue.”
The Great Park board will meet at 1:55 p.m. at City Hall in a special meeting to discuss the contract, and the matter will be brought up again at the regularly scheduled council meeting set for 4 p.m.
Irvine’s Great Park Board faces criticism again, and a renewed call for dissolution
Irvine’s plan to take the Great Park Walkable Timeline beyond the 80s