WILMINGTON — The fate of the city-owned amphitheater, the Hugh Morton Amphitheater (better known as Greenfield Lake Amphitheater) is still up in the air as the City of Wilmington has once again extended the deadline for management proposals for the venue. The city has also answered additional questions surrounding the request.
However, when it came to questions about previous discussions with Live Nation to take over operations of the venue, the city was quiet.
In its latest addendum to the request for proposals (RFP), the city has also provided some interesting information including revenues from concession sales as well as the considerable growth in popularity (and profit) the venue has seen in the past seven years.
Originally introduced in October, RFPs were supposed to be submitted to the city by Nov. 19, however, an addendum later changed that date to Nov. 26 — now, the city has once again extended that date, this time until Dec. 3.
The first RFP and subsequent addendum were somewhat lacking in detail whereas the latest submission from the city is substantial with more than 300 pages worth of information.
Making up the bulk of those pages is a breakdown of the total costs and revenues of each event held at the venue since 2017.
Live Nation already operating more than half of GLA shows
The addendum also details the extent of the ongoing partnership with Live Nation, the event promoter tapped to operate the much anticipated North Waterfront Park venue.
While many show are promoted locally by 98.3 The Penguin (WUIN), they are Live Nation productions. Of the 64 shows that took place in 2019 more than 40 of them were Live Nation events — and the city shared profits with the company in a 50% revenue split agreement (this it the city’s policy for all parties who rent the venue — low tier, less frequent renters get between 20% and 35%, while those companies that hit $45,000 or more in gross concession receipts receive 50% for the year.)
[Editor’s disclosure note: 98.3 The Penguin (WUIN) and Port City Daily are both owned by Local Voice Media; Live Nation was a sponsor of The Penguin in 2019.]
Other companies, like Blue Bus Entertainment, also hosted events and received revenues from the city.
Similarities to deal city claimed it tabled in 2018
Last year Port City Daily found emails from a city official to Live Nation Carolinas President Grant Lyman, suggesting the idea to Live Nation that it could take over management of Hugh Morton Amphitheater in return for additional investment in the park project — a $2 million investment.
Amy Beatty, the city’s director of community services who sent the email, previously denied the city was moving forward with the idea last year.
Still, it’s worth noting that the city recently accepted an additional $2 million in investment for the North Waterfront Park from Live Nation just weeks after announcing the RFP. The due date for proposals was originally supposed to coincide with City Council’s acceptance of that $2 million; proposals were to be due at 3 p.m. — just three hours before the city council meeting.
At least one interested party had questions about earlier conversations with Live Nation. In the latest addendum to the RFP, one question submitted to the city reads, “Can you please provide additional detail on past discussions with Live Nation to run the Hugh Morton Amphitheater and why the decision was made to run an RFP Process?”
The city’s response?
[Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Port City Daily asked the city’s spokesperson if Live Nation’s additional $2 million would be considered in the RFP process, or if there was any other quid pro quo; the city spokesperson said only that they didn’t have any background information on the process and suggested contacting Beatty. After the second extension in the RFP process, Port City Daily reached out to Beatty, who is currently out of the office until next Tuesday, December 3, which is also the new due date for proposals.]
Big business, and growing
Running the amphitheater, while not the city’s biggest moneymaker, has proven to be an increasingly profitable operation.
It is important to note that the contract to operate the amphitheater is different than simply putting on shows. It will require whatever company is awarded the contract to manage day-to-day operations as well, including concession sales.
For example, according to city documents in 2013 revenues for concession sales hovered around $170,000 — six years later that number would increase to $566,124. But it’s not just concessions that make the city money, ticket surcharges and rental fees also bring in revenue.
Again, in 2013, revenues were around $13,000 in surcharges and ticket fees — in 2019 that number reached $102,887.
It’s worth noting the city limits the number of shows to 40 per year, requiring approval from the city manager for additional events; the city cites the adjacent residential neighborhood as the reason for this cap. However, even if a new management company could not add additional shows, the venue’s fees and concession prices could likely be negotiated as part of a management contract, which could allow the amphitheater to continue to increase profitability.