It's official: By 2017 the Great Park
will be THE place to see big-ticket entertainment in Irvine
. Please excuse us while we struggle to contain our enthusiasm.
As of last week, the Irvine Company and the Irvine City Council both confirmed that a new amphitheater is being proposed to replace the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, which will lose its lease after 2017 to make way for more apartment homes for the Los Olivos Village project. Just what the world needs, more beige stucco! Those who saw the city lay waste to Wild Rivers last year for the exact same reason probably saw this coming. I mean, for a city who can't build identical houses fast enough, Verizon's land is prime territory. Or even before that, when the zoning plan for land containing both Wild Rivers and Verizon changed from a commercial/recreational classification to residential at the behest of landowner, the Irvine Company.
In an attempt to fill the void, the city's park board (which includes the Irvine City Council)
is moving forward with a project to build a 10,000 seat amphitheater (8,000 seats and a 2,000-capacity lawn) within the confines of the Great Park
. Stop us if this already sounds like a great idea. According to a recent story in the Orange County Register,
two studies (count 'em, two!) on the viability of the project were enough for the park board to surmise that an amphitheater half the size of Verizon will work for a more realistic in "the modern, Internet-driven music industry in which many artists establish careers but don't build huge fan bases." Which leads us to our next question: What the hell are they smoking?
Don't get us wrong, we appreciate the research of Larry Agran and company, but did they neglect the venues extensive (and recent) history of sell-out shows that have housed some of the biggest headliners in the world--with audience that largely pre-dates our new-fangled "Internet-driven" music industry? Iron Maiden ring a bell? How about KISS or Motley Crüe? Assuming they're still alive (of course they will be, Bruce Dickinson WILL live forever!), do you think Maiden or any of these acts, or the dozens of other huge rockstars that pass through town, will ever want to come to Irvine again?
And in terms of fan bases not being quite what they were, mid-year concert data from Pollstar reflects a business on the rebound. So far, top North American tours garnered a combined gross of $1,125.9 million, up 1.2% over last year's numbers. Ticket sales are up by 11.3% with 18.6 million tickets sold. The highest grossing tour so far this year goes to Roger Waters, who pulled in $158.1 million for his recent tour of "The Wall," a spectacular, psychedelic mind fuck that we assure you is worth every penny.
But let's forget about numbers for a second. In addition to creating an atmosphere more tailored to today's music industry, the amphitheater's mission statement says the proposed venue will be an "inspiring" and "financially sustainable 21st-century performing arts facility among the finest venues anywhere for popular entertainment, symphonic performances, dance, opera and community/educational programming." When you compare the natural, mountainous surroundings and sloped lawn of VWA with the flatlands of the Great Weedpatch, which one feels more inspring to you? After 2017, as far as big venues go, all we'll have left is the indoor hockey rink in Anaheim--nothing wrong with the Honda Center, but who is gonna argue that they'd rather see a show in a closed, big-box area than an outdoor concert during the summer. So they're telling us in the next five years, the only way to do that is at a place where everyone in the building crammed together ass cheek to ass cheek?
In a time when OC seems to be losing pieces of it's music history left and right, from its tiniest roadhouses to it's biggest concert venues, this news just makes us,well, sad. Since it was first introduced as Irvine Meadows in 1981 (it was bought by Live Nation in 1988), the South County venue has housed some of the greatest shows in the history of the county...no doubt you will name some of your favorites in the comments section. But suffice it to say that if you were a Michael Jackson or an Alice Cooper or a Robert Plant and you were coming to Orange County for a gig, chances are you were coming to Irvine.
As of now, City Council member Jeff Lalloway says the project will cost roughly between $40-$50 million to construct. The park is currently developing a request for proposals for a private partner to help build the new cramphitheater which they'll be submitting to the board for approval. For now, make sure to get your fill over the next five years, folks. Enjoy the room you have to stretch out during a show. But hey, it's not all bad right? Now you'll get to rely on the Great Park for all your clean, sterile, big-box entertainment (Wild Rivers is even building a new park next to the Great park in 2014!) and once again, South County's sea of beige expands at the price of our past.