The outdoor performing arts center on Kirker Pass Road will begin its 40th season in the spring just as it did its first in 1975, as the Concord Pavilion. Earlier this month the Concord City Council approved a new 10-year management agreement with Live Nation, the world’s largest live entertainment company, to continue operating the venue, which they have done since 2000.
With the expiration of the current Live Nation contract at the end of this year the City was seeking an arrangement that would see the venue, which opened in May 1975, more utilized than in recent years when there have been fewer than a dozen concerts each season. The new agreement with Live Nation mandates 75 concerts drawing a minimum of 3000 attendance over each five-year period (including a potential five-year extension from 2024-28). That works out to 15 concerts annually, a slight increase over recent years.
When the Live Nation operating contract went into effect in 2000-2003 there were 26-29 concerts annually with attendance ranging from 153,000-190,000. Since 2003 there have only been three years with as many as 20 concerts and only once in the past five years have there been more than 11 Pavilion shows.
The council set out three goals in negotiating a new management contract, which drew initial interest from Nederlander and SMG in addition to Live Nation. Only Live Nation and Nederlander eventually submitted written proposals and, following analysis of those, the city exclusively negotiated with Live Nation.
The three goals set out by the council for the new management contract:
Revitalization/reactivation of the venue: Increase the number of concerts and diversity of commercial and community entertainment offerings. Restore a sense of civic pride and partnership.
The contract assures an average of 15 concerts per year, slightly more than the recent average but far less than the Pavilion presented in its first 25 years when 50 shows a season were the norm. The diversity of offerings remains to be seen as Live Nation navigates a challenging touring concert landscape. Changing the name back to Concord Pavilion from the Sleep Train Pavilion at Concord (it was Chronicle Pavilion for a number of years as well) and offering local residents opportunities for pre-sales (300 available to residents before general public sales) and free tickets (1000 to City residents and 1000 to Concord school children each year) address the goal as well.
Financial stability: Receive revenue to cover debt costs and minimize financial risk to the City.
The contract calls for a guaranteed $800,000 payment to the City each year (rising to $900,000 should the extension kick in). This replaces the previous arrangement of a $500,000 payment plus $3 per ticket surcharge. The new deal has an escalating ticket surcharge for sales over 100,000 (starting at $3 per ticket for first five years).
Improve structural integrity and quality of maintenance: The Pavilion appearance (from parking lots to restrooms) has diminished over the years since the City stopped its maintenance responsibilities in 2000. Live Nation has pledged to spend $3.7 million before the end of 2016 on capital investment. The firm will allocate $100,000 annually for facility repairs and maintenance with the City committing an equivalent amount.
When the contract was submitted for final ratification on Dec. 10, Concord City Manager Valerie Barone said, “I believe that the council made this happen. They were very clear that something needed to change and we needed a renewed commitment and reinvigoration of the facility,” Barone said. “Because they made that so clear, I believe we ended up with a much better contract than we would have.”