Entering the VIP Cocktail Party reception hosted by Live Nation to celebrate the grand reopening of the refurbished Concord Pavilion, one could not help but be proud of how this facility is once again evolving to be the crown jewel of the community.
It was also nice to see a dividend in the form of gourmet food and free flowing Prosecco from all the service fees paid over the years when purchasing tickets going back to the days of Bill Graham Presents and Ticketmaster.
Just one year ago with only nine shows being held there, the Pavilion was bleeding red ink. There was talk that its promoter deliberately booked washed up rock stars and low rent County Fair acts so that top performers could play at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Things fell to such a low level that graduation ceremonies at Concord High School were one of the highest drawing attractions in 2013.
Given the prospect of losing money in operating the facility or even considering closing the venue to make better use of the land, the Concord City Council faced a critical crossroad situation of how to proceed with the future of the Concord Pavilion. With the existing contract with Live Nation expiring, they undertook the job of finding a vendor that could best revitalize it.
According to Concord Mayor Tim Grayson, “The whole Council from the beginning envisioned a deal that would elevate the Pavilion to the potential that was always present and realize the benefit of such a great asset. This was not an easy task”
For several months, while secret negotiations were proceeding with different companies, there was a news blackout that would make the authors of the Brown Act shiver. With the extensive experience of then Mayor Dan Helix, along with other councilmembers Laura Hoffmeister, Tim Grayson, Edi Birsan, and Ron Leone, a determined group negotiated a new contract.
In the end Live Nation won the rights to operate the Concord Pavilion for five years with another five year option. Grayson explained “Live Nation did not become a national booking agent for nothing. They know their business and this year’s schedule shows that. There is no doubt that more seats will be sold. This means the Concord Pavilion will actually contribute to the revenue of the city rather than take away from it.”
In addition to promising to beef up the number of dates (18 this year) and attendance per show, part of the contract with Live Nation had them investing some $3.4 million in upgrades for the aging complex which includes:
- A new Front gate
- Redesigned concession stands and additional points of sale
- New craft brew locations, a wine bar, and a general store to bring about a more upscale environment to provide better services to Pavilion patrons
- New plaza restrooms to replace outdated and rundown facilities that reminded folks of Candlestick Park.
- A renovated backstage, including the dressing rooms, catering room and outdoor patio area.
- Fresh paved surfaces, improvements to the parking lot, and redesigned landscaping to enhance the concert going experience
Live Nation believes these improvements to the Concord Pavilion will have a direct effect on attracting upper echelon artists because of past complaints of substandard conditions by performers who played at the Pavilion.
According to Matt Prieshoff, the Chief Operating Officer in California for the multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerate who oversaw the project with the City of Concord, “The touring and artist communities speak with each other often and when they have a great experience at a venue, they share it with others. The new dressing rooms, restrooms, showers, catering area, and outside patio area, will provide a first class experience for the artists and their touring personnel, which we think they will remember. “
In addition to the physical improvements to the Pavilion, Prieshoff touted the appointment of Aaron Hawkins, as the exclusive General Manager to the complex rather than sharing this position with other venues. Along with this, concerts are now being advertised in other media outlets and there are new promotions being made including a partnership between Kinder’s Meats, Costco, and the Pavilion to sell event packages to consumers.
With the contract between the City of Concord and Live Nation not completed until the later part of 2013, getting the improvements made at the Pavilion prior to the start of the 2014 season was a daunting task. With the co-operation of Concord City Manager Valerie Barone and her staff with the Live Nation people, work on the Pavilion, that was projected to take at least 8 months to complete, was mostly finished in half this time. Needless to say, the permitting process was expedited to achieve this goal.
Prieshoff remarked, “We were surprised and gratified how Live Nation and the City of could get so much accomplished in such a short period of time. Hopefully, this will be indicative of how our partnership will work in the years to come.”
There are a few areas such as the entrance to the facility that are still a work in progress. However, most of the construction was done before early season concert goers arrived to enjoy such as entertainers as Barry Gibb, James Taylor, and Lionel Ritchie.
In the end, as City Councilman Edi Birsan summed up “The Pavilion renegotiation with Live Nation is the highlight of the City Council’s accomplishment under Mayor Helix. It has turned a major loss for the city into a gain. It has revitalized the site and raised the number of events and quality substantially. We should all be proud of this accomplishment.”
Echoing this, Dan Helix, who was instrumental as a City council member in constructing the original facility back in 1975 proudly proclaimed, “Our Concord Pavilion is back and no longer a non-entity, and with a future which is bright.”
As part of this new tomorrow it is hoped that if additional revenues are received by the city, this might finance improvements for educational purposes once the back log of overdue maintenance tasks are completed.
Concord Vice-Mayor Ron Leone, who has had a long career education as a teacher and school administrator hopes, “Should the Pavilion end up making a profit for the City I would be in favor of investing some of those funds for educational purposes going towards arts programs for our youth” Tim Grayson added, “I would love to see some type of performing arts venue/facility to accommodate secondary students who desire to pursue the arts while attaining their core education.”
With the current line-up of shows and strong ticket sales for 2014, it is virtually certain that this season will be at least break even and likely profitable for the refurbished Concord Pavilion. Whether this new found prosperity will carry off to the remaining years of the Live Nation agreement remains to be seen.
Due to the newly created relationship between the two parties, Grayson feels “the contract was designed with incentives to motivate both Live Nation and the City of Concord to work as partners to achieve success.”
Only time will tell.