What do the Concord Pavilion, Candlestick Park, and the Oakland
Coliseum, all have in common? Each is an aging facility that serve as concert venues. These facilities are geographically isolated from retail businesses, provide abysmal concessions to their patrons, are difficult to reach from their parking lots, and have design flaws that makes them relics of the past. As Bob Dylan prophesied, the times they are a-changing.
Most notably, none of these concert venues as they currently are configured, are economically viable today.
While the Oakland Coliseum, which resides in a high crime area, was recently able to host a sold-out baseball play-off game and an NFL football game the following evening, its long-term future is bleak. As a baseball field located within a football stadium, its viewing quality is the worst in the Major Leagues. And acoustics be damned.
Candlestick Park, formally home of the San Francisco Giants, is still the skank stable for the 49ers until the end of the year. Next year, when the team moves to Santa Clara, it will be quickly torn down for the eye sore that it is, in favor of mixed used housing and a shopping mall.
Which brings us to the Concord Pavilion, located in Concord California, that in recent years has fallen to hard times. When the Concord Pavilion was constructed in 1975, it was supposed to accommodate large crowds that gathered for the annual Jazz Festival. In this capacity the COncord Pavilion was a huge success. People flocked to attend a wide variety of concerts under the star lit skies for a wide range of music most notably in the area of Pop and Rock and Roll.
Santana, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, The Blues Brothers, and many other major entertainers played to sold out crowds at the Concord Pavilion. People came from throughout the Bay Area to experience performances booked by legendary promoter Bill Graham of Bill Graham Presents (BGP).
Over the years the Concord Pavilion was sponsired by a variety of Bay Area busineses and was named over the years as the Chronicle Pavilion, Sleep Train.
Twenty years down the road, as the economics of live concert venues morphed considerably, it became evident that in order continue attracting big name acts, the Concord Pavilion would need to expand in order to keep up with Shoreline Amphitheater, which was adding seating. So with funding provided by a 18.7 million dollar bond issued by the City of Concord, the Concord Pavilion grew from a capacity of 8,500 to 12,500, along with notable improvements to the stage and sound system.
Even after this expansion was completed, over time fewer events were held each year marking a gradual decline in attendance that continues to this day. The reasons for this fall from grace include but are not limited to:
1. Increased competition from the Shoreline which eventually expanded to host over 20,000 people. This has made it more difficult to attract top artists to the Concord Pavilion who, while on tour, usually play just one concert in a metropolitan area.
2. Additional concert venues coming on-line throughout the region to increase competition for talent including Indian Casinos, wineries, and locales where better facilities and corporate sponsorship can be provided.
3. The Concord Pavilion’s expansion actually hurt it in many ways as musical groups have preferred to book shows in smaller places that could be sold out and create more intimacy with their audiences.
4. Overall attendance in concert venues such as amphitheaters or canyons like Redrock, and other styles around the entire USA has declined in recent years for the same reasons that have hurt busdiness in Concord.
5. The declining number of acts that tour anymore. Many of the groups from the 80′s and 90′s have broken up, died or can no longer attract enough concert goers to fill seats in venues such as the Concord Pavilion. It is a fact that the talent pool for such large locations is much lower than a couple decades ago.
6. The income level of Contra Costa County where the Pavilion draws most of their patrons is much lower than the Silicon Valley served by Shoreline.
7. The relative isolation of the Concord Pavilion from entertainment attractions in Concord California similar to what has occurred surrounding AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants play. There is now a growing tendency to place concert venues in urban settings where visitors can enjoy entertainment options within easy walking distance from their seats.
8 In recent years patrons of the Concord Pavilion have complained about the long uphill walk from the parking lot to where they view concerts. This has affected attendance of older people to events there and is in contrast to what many other facilities offer.
9. It has been speculated that the current booking agent Live Nation has made Concord California a stepchild to the Shoreline in bringing in top groups to perform. Given the fact that a sold out performance at the South Bay amphitheater brings between $300,000 to $600,00 more revenue, one can hardly blame Live Nation for their booking policies.
10. Aside from concerts, business has dramatically fallen off for home shows, sporting events such as the Golden Gloves, and community programs other than High School graduations in the Spring.
With all of these factors working against the future success of the Concord Pavilion, the City Council is in a very difficult position in trying to figure out the future use of the property. The current contract with Live Nation that expires in 2014 includes a $500,000 guarantee per year that has been used to service the bond debt on the facility.
In retrospect, the past contract with Live Nation may not have been a bad deal for Concord. The answer to this question will soon be known as the City Council has been engaging in closed-door negotiations with the present vendor and other competitors vying for the future management rights of the Concord Pavilion.
At that time the taxpayers of Concord California may know if they have a cultural icon or a Candlestick-ish white elephant on their hands.
Next week How the Concord Pavilion can be revitalized?