Tonight, Irvine City Council members are slated to consider taking the next step toward building a new amphitheater in the Great Park, one of the cornerstone projects in their new plan for the city’s largest attraction.
The facility is set to seat just under 14,000 people, with city manager Oliver Chi calling it “Orange County’s equivalent to the Hollywood Bowl,” in a phone interview last Tuesday.
“The city would pay for the construction, and we would own the facility on a move forward basis,” Chi said. “During and after the concert season, the city would have access to the facility for a prescribed number of days.”
Precise details on the new amphitheater are scarce, but a city staff report estimated a construction cost of as much as $130 million, which includes a 4,500 space parking lot for the new facility at a 25 acre site in the center of the park.
Chi also pledged the facility would not be built using money from the special Mello-Roos property taxes Great Park residents pay, which go toward building infrastructure in the park and have drawn questions from residents about why they don’t have control over where their money goes.
While the city would pay for the facility’s construction, Live Nation would be the ones responsible for running the daily operations, and would purchase and manage all the facility’s equipment along with offering $20 million toward the construction costs of the stadium.
Live Nation would be required to host at least 25 shows a year at the amphitheater, but there were no specifics on how large those shows would be or if there was any maximum number of events.
The promotional company would pay the city $3.5 million a year in rent, along with a portion of the maintenance fees attached to each ticket, which city staff say should bring in anywhere from $800,000 to $1 million annually.
On Tuesday night, the city council will discuss approving a more in-depth study and design for the next phase of the project’s development, with goals to open it in time for the 2025 concert season.
But some have questioned how Great Park residents feel about a new amphitheater going into the park.
The existing FivePoint Amphitheatre on the eastern edge of the park seats just over 12,000 people, and was always intended to be a temporary facility, with plans to break down the venue and convert the area to housing in the future.
There have been 134 noise complaints about the Live Nation-run FivePoint Amphitheatre since May according to the city’s Code Enforcement Division.
That’s down 83%, which would be around 750 complaints, from the previous year according to a city staff report, which stated Live Nation installed new sound mitigation measures this year after complaints from residents near the venue.
Members of the Great Park Residents’ Council, one of the resident groups in the park whose members recently resigned from the city’s Great Park Task Force, say residents should get to see more details on traffic flow, financing and noise pollution before the project can move forward.
In a white paper released earlier this month, the group pointed to complications when the OC Fair Ground Amphitheatre was opened and a group called Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa sued over the traffic and noise pollution it created.
“The Concerned Citizens lawsuits took 8 years to be resolved. No concerts were held from 1995-2003 and resulted in revenue losses to the city,” the resident council wrote. “Several residents are concerned with the noise pollution levels and the long-term effects are also a serious threat and concern.”
However, some residents appear excited about a new, permanent amphitheater coming to Irvine.
A Facebook page called Save Live Music Irvine is encouraging residents to show up to tonight’s council meeting.
It’s unclear who manages the page, which started in July 2016, a few months before the Irvine Meadows outdoor amphitheater closed.
David Lingerfeldt, one of the members of the city’s Great Park task force, said the amphitheater is one of the task force’s most anticipated projects, and it was the first thing they wanted to know more about.
“The overwhelming majority of people seem to like the amphitheater,” Lingerfeldt said in an interview.
He added that while the current amphitheater has its noise problems, he’s hopeful the future one would be required to implement more mitigation measures.
“I’m hopeful that if it’s a permanent location, there can’t be any of these excuses,” Lingerfeldt said. “Right now they’re saying it’s temporary, we don’t get to do a lot of the noise abatement. So if they get a permanent location, they better do noise abatement.”
The council’s discussion on the Great Park begins at 3 p.m. today, and can be viewed here.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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