Irvine Dumps LiveNation for Great Park Amphitheater

Irvine Dumps LiveNation for Great Park Amphitheater
A rendering of the proposed amphitheater at Great Park in Irvine, Calif. (Courtesy of City of Irvine)
Rudy Blalock

The City of Irvine is now looking for a company to operate the proposed new amphitheater at its Great Park, after city councilors—acting as members of the Great Park Board—ended the city’s partnership July 25 with live music events promoter and venue operator LiveNation in a 3–2 vote.

The decision came during a Great Park special board meeting where city leaders were set to approve a final design, construction, and operation agreement with the promoter, after an initial agreement was approved by the city council in September.

During public comment, most residents spoke against the partnership while some stagehands and construction workers in unions spoke in favor.

After hours of discussion, Councilors Tammy Kim, Larry Agran, and Kathleen Treseder voted to terminate the relationship.

The vote now directs City Manager Oliver Chi to come up with a new plan within 90 days to move forward with an 8,000 to 10,000-seat amphitheater instead—4,000 shy of Live Nation’s proposal—that will include noise mitigation efforts for surrounding residential neighborhoods including sound levels that will be managed internally, not by visiting acts.

The Irvine Civic Center in Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The Irvine Civic Center in Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Of concern to some city leaders was that LiveNation would have acted both as operator of the amphitheater and promoter of its events as well.

With their nationwide presence, they would most likely be seeking the biggest and best acts that are most profitable but not necessarily the most diverse, according to Ms. Kim.

“We need promoters who are looking at Irvine—as a unique destination place, and the types of performers and the types of acts should be as diverse as our community,” she said.

Over the last year, city staff have considered various elements to a world-class amphitheater including design, seating, noise barriers, parking, and more. During a February council meeting, staff presented an option for a smaller amphitheater with a capacity of 8,000, and an in-house managed sound system.

Ms. Kim said turning away from LiveNation shouldn’t delay the city’s plans.

“This is not a slow roll in any way … I don’t think we need any more design concepts. … We can go. The framework for the Great Park with the amphitheater has already been approved,” she said.

Councilors Mike Carroll and Mayor Farrah Khan voted against terminating LiveNation.

Ms. Khan said she wasn’t ready to kill the agreement because there were residents who were supportive of the live music operator.

“I’ve been listening to the community throughout my time in different town halls, community events, and what I’ve been hearing is that they prefer LiveNation,” she said.

One of Ms. Treseder’s concerns was that under the agreement, LiveNation would be exempt from any future city noise ordinances.

Kids and adults walk near old aircraft hangars in the Great Park, in Irvine, Calif., on July 17, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times
Kids and adults walk near old aircraft hangars in the Great Park, in Irvine, Calif., on July 17, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times

The city’s current noise ordinance doesn’t account for some sound levels, like deep bass sounds, which many performing acts use.

A representative for LiveNation said any future noise ordinance could limit acts.

“LiveNation shares the exact same stance or posture that you would if you were the operator of your own facility. They just want to make sure that they’re not put out of business by an ordinance unknown to them at this point,” he said.

LiveNation has addressed noise complaints in recent years, according to city officials.

In 2021, an average of 17 complaints per event were reported at the Great Park’s temporary FivePoint Amphitheater, which is currently managed by LiveNation.

According to city officials, about $300,000 in sound mitigation equipment was installed—at the expense of LiveNation—which reduced complaints by 80 percent.

In their own statement, LiveNation officials said they’re still open to working with the city on a permanent amphitheater despite the vote.

“As the [city] continues to debate plans for the permanent amphitheater, we remain committed to supporting live music in Orange County as we have for the last 40 years,” a representative said.

They said they will focus on continuing to operate the temporary amphitheater for the time being.

“We’ve invested in both the temporary amphitheater and in the process to build a permanent amphitheater. We will focus on operating FivePoint Amphitheatre for this season and are open to any future discussions to build a permanent amphitheater in Orange County,” the representative said.

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.
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