Irvine is a step closer to finally getting a permanent amphitheater constructed inside the city’s Great Park.
Since the 16,000-capacity Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre was torn down back in 2016, the temporary 12,000-capacity FivePoint Ampitheatre, located just outside of the Great Park, has hosted several big-name acts including Brad Paisley, Zac Brown Band, Kiss, Halsey, Sammy Hagar and many more.
City Manager Oliver Chi will present the design of the new amphitheater, which will be operated by Los Angeles-based concert promoter Live Nation, as part of the framework for amenities in the Great Park for approval to the City of Irvine and the Great Park Board during a council meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
“If they approve, we can move forward and we’ll really roll up our sleeves and get a full design and we’re that much closer to a permanent amphitheater in Irvine,” Bret Gallagher, president of Live Nation Southern California said during a recent phone interview. Live Nation is encouraging the public to show up or tune in virtually to the meeting to show support.
The new venue will have a capacity of roughly 14,000, Gallagher said, and will be located just north of the new Wild Rivers Waterpark. Much like the old Irvine Meadows, it will have a pit that can be modified for standing or seating and a sprawling lawn area.
Gallagher said that since Live Nation operates about 60 amphitheaters nationwide, the company has taken notes on the things the guests enjoy the most and will be implementing those elements into the new venue. Unlike the current temporary space, which is using portable bathrooms and hand washing stations, Gallagher reports that ample washrooms have been included in the new design. Though there’s plenty of parking worked into the plan, there is still a push for fans to take public transportation. There will be a walking path from the Irvine train station that leads directly to the front of the venue and plans for shuttles and streamlined rideshare services are in place.
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There will also be elevated experiences like thoughtfully curated food and beverage selections, club and suite spaces and even some additional offerings to enhance the lawn space.
“I remember a time when at Irvine Meadows the seats would fill up and the lawn was kind of a party area and a bit of an afterthought,” he said. “We’ve gotten away from that thinking because people really do like the lawn and that experience. We’ll create a new lawn space with nicer amenities and the hot thing right now is cabanas and we can do that on the lawn. So, guests can either have a cabana with service and a higher-end experience or you can go GA and go crazy.”
Since fans have responded so well to the grassy, open area at the entrance of the temporary venue, which currently serves as a picnic space with sponsor activations, yard games, bars and food trucks and booths, Gallagher said a lot of that will carry over into the permanent venue.
“We want people — fans and the artists — to leave with a good taste in their mouths, like ‘That was a great experience, I’m going to come back to that amphitheater,’” he said. “We’re going to use our strength as a big company, who are in the food, beverage, hospitality and venue business, and use that first class experience to make this amphitheater the best. I will selfishly say, this will be the best amphitheater anyone has ever seen.”
Though it has taken six years, Gallagher said there actually haven’t been any major roadblocks on the path to construct the new venue, but rather “these things just take time,” he said. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic set the process back a bit, he said, but he’s forever grateful to the fans in Irvine and Orange County for continuously showing up and supporting the #SaveLiveMusicIrvine initiative.
“We’ve proven that people want live music here and if we build it, they will come and they’re still coming,” he said. “In our business, we want places for artists to play and places for fans to buy tickets to see those artists play, so it would have been a disservice if we had given up on this when we’re this close. So many people have supported us. Without FivePoint, we wouldn’t be here, and the City of Irvine and the fans who have supported this, that’s what drives us.”