Members of the public came out in droves to voice their opinions on a proposed 14,000-seat amphitheater in Great Park — but Irvine councilmembers decided to punt the deliberations to the end of the month.
The City Council was set to discuss on Tuesday, Feb. 14, whether Irvine should proceed with an agreement with concert promoter Live Nation for the large concert venue or move for a scaled-down 8,000-seat amphitheater. But after more than three hours of public comment, Councilmember Mike Carroll asked to postpone the discussions because he had a prior commitment, and enough councilmembers agreed to the request.
Construction workers, stagehands, union representatives from the hospitality and music industries, publicists, hotel workers, concertgoers and food truck owners, among others, including one musician who played his guitar, spoke out in favor of the 14,000-seat amphitheater. Some wore white shirts emblazoned with gold lettering proclaiming “Save Live Music Irvine.”
Many spoke about their memories of Irvine Meadows, which for 36 years was Orange County’s largest music venue, and how this new amphitheater is an opportunity to continue the musical memories.
Irvine’s partnership with Live Nation for Great Park concert venue could be in jeopardy
Irvine council, Live Nation ink deal for permanent concert venue at Great Park
With Great Park residents frustrated, city proposes ‘task force’ to get their voice in development
Irvine leaders went back to drawing board for new concepts for Great Park’s future
However, a handful of Irvine residents, including Great Park Residents Council member Camiar Ohadi, spoke out against the large venue, citing traffic and noise concerns. Ohadi also pointed to a petition started by residents that had garnered more than 120 signatures by Tuesday evening.
In September, the City Council approved an agreement with Live Nation for the design, construction and operation of a permanent outdoor 14,000-seat amphitheater in Great Park, replacing the temporary FivePoint Amphitheatre. The total cost of the project at the time was estimated at $130 million, with the city contributing $110 million and Live Nation $20 million.
But Live Nation wanted an “extensive reconfiguration of the deal,” according to city manager Oliver Chi, that included increasing the total cost for the project by $20 million, with Irvine on the hook for the additional cost.
City staffers shared Live Nation’s addendums with the council ahead of Tuesday’s meeting and offered councilmembers an alternative option: a smaller amphitheater, with a capacity for up to 8,000 and estimated to cost $80 to $90 million.
Tom See, the chief operating officer of Live Nation Venues, and Geni Lincoln, president of concerts for the California region, said the “statements in City-generated matrix do not accurately reflect our positions.”
The addendums to the approved agreement, they said in a letter to the council that was provided to the Register earlier this week, are “based on a working draft that has been amended through meetings and discussions between Live Nation and City employees and council members over the last several months.”
Live Nation, the company had previously said, “shares the city’s goal in making Irvine a great destination for live music.”
“We’re confident the 14,000-capacity amphitheater could be built within the initial $130 million budget that was previously approved, while continuing to attract top tier talent that the community has enjoyed for decades,” it said.
Mayor Farrah Khan, who voted in favor of the Live Nation agreement in September, said she had questions for city staffers, who have been leading negotiations with the concert promoter.
“When did the conversation of a smaller amphitheater start to take place,” Khan said. “Who approved having a consultant come in and study a small amphitheater because I don’t remember voting on that.”
If there were extensive changes made to the agreement, Khan said, the council should have been informed beforehand.
Great Park’s amenities should be a “draw for the region that are going to be a destination spot for our city,” Khan said. “If we are looking at building a community park (with a smaller venue), then that’s not the Great Park.”
But Councilmember Larry Agran, who was the sole voice on the dais in September opposing the 14,000-seat amphitheater, said the smaller venue “would be far more compatible with the Great Park” and in line with the “expectations of amenities in the Great Park.”
An 8,000-seater, Agran said, would be suitable for the “high quality of life enjoyed by Great Park neighborhood individuals and residents.” He said the “overwhelming sentiment” by Great Park residents — and residents in other villages in Irvine — is that “a mega or supersized amphitheater is simply accompanied by too many adverse impacts.”
One of the concerns that Agran, and others, had with the 14,000-seat venue is the impact of noise and traffic on residents.
However, See and Lincoln said “the sound impacts of a smaller outdoor venue would likely be similar to a large amphitheater and could arguably be intensified” because larger venues are better at absorbing noise due to factors like land mass and the location of speakers.
The concert provider said it is engaging an independent expert to conduct an additional study to consider other sound mitigation factors.
Councilmembers also on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, moved planned deliberations on whether Irvine should stay with the controversial OC Power Authority to the next meeting.
The next meeting is set for Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 1 Civic Center Plaza.