San Clemente city officials are mulling where and how to construct an amphitheater to encourage performing arts in the city.
Yet it’s unclear how the proposed venue will be financed, drawing the concern of one former elected official.
At the Sept. 14 City Council meeting, former Mayor Wayne Eggleston said the proposal could cost millions.
“An amphitheater is going to be costing millions and millions of dollars,” said Eggleston, also a member of the city’s Amphitheater Committee.
“San Clemente needs the credibility of a performing arts city before we can consider that type of private fundraising or any type of fundraising in order to build an amphitheater,” he said.
The Amphitheater Committee has been considering the proposal since the body was established in August 2022.
At its Sept. 14 meeting, the San Clemente City Council voted to dissolve the group and combine it with the Arts and Culture Committee, which will continue discussing an amphitheater project somewhere in the city.
Beaches, Parks and Recreation Director Samantha Wylie said the idea for an amphitheater stemmed from residents who want more space for performances.
“This community really wants performing arts space, whether that’s for dance performances, theater performances, musical performances — the community has seemed to take on this approach that we lack that,” Wiley said at the Sept. 14 meeting.
San Clemente isn’t the only Orange County city wrestling with an amphitheater proposal.
Irvine City Council members have also been considering potential plans to build an amphitheater at the Great Park.
Most recently, council members narrowly voted to stop negotiating with promoter Live Nation and look at other options in an effort to get a fair return on the taxpayer investment.
Under the old proposal from Live Nation, it could’ve taken Irvine up to 30 years to break even on the investment.
In San Clemente, it’s unclear if a future amphitheater will be indoor or outdoor. But, if city officials select an outdoor space, it likely wouldn’t need voter approval.
Voters passed Measure V in 2008, which gave San Clemente residents the right to vote on land use approvals that change open space lands to non-open space lands.
But City Attorney Elizabeth Mitchell said there is a specific exception written into the measure for amphitheaters.
At the same time, Wiley said the committee has been struggling to find the proper space for an outdoor amphitheater and may switch its focus to indoor spaces, which are more readily available.
Councilmember Mark Enmeier described the need for an updated facility when it comes to student use.
“Our high school performances were so fantastic, but they’re setting up in an open-air, next to the freeway with lots of noise — even though they’re winning tons of awards,” Enmeier said during the meeting. “We have alumni going onto Broadway and other performances, and yet we don’t have the facility for them to perform to the level that they deserve.”
Wylie said the local high school needs space for its dance team, performing arts groups and music performances.
Despite concerns, Councilmember Steve Knoblock said the development would provide an incredible asset for the community and could become a “jewel in this town.”
“I think the concept has merit,” Knoblock said. “I think it would provide a real amenity for our community and would be something that would help out the cultural reputation and gravitas to grow as we begin moving in that direction.”
The San Clemente City Council will meet again on Oct. 3. The regular business meeting will begin at 6 p.m.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.
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