WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington has been unusually tight-lipped about its request for proposals to privatize management of the Hugh Morton Amphitheater, but city emails show staff will hear presentations from Live Nation and AEG, the world’s first- and second-largest concert and live event production companies, respectively.
The city’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for Hugh Morton Amphitheater, better known as the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, was posted quietly in October with responses due in November; that deadline was later extended twice, and closed last week.
Currently, the city owns and operates the amphitheaters; the city rents the venue to and shares profits with several private promoters and production companies. More than half of recent shows were produced by Live Nation in conjunction with 98.3 The Penguin, but other companies including Blue Bus Entertainment also produced shows.
The operation deal would turn over concessions, maintenance, and other management duties to a private company. The operation has grown increasingly profitable for the city, but also increasingly taxing on the city’s parks and recreation manpower.
In 2013, concession revenues hovered around $170,000 — six years later that number would increase to $566,124. Ticket surcharges and rental fee revenue have also grown considerably, from $13,000 in surcharges and ticket fees in 2013 to around $102,887 in 2019. At the same time, an increasing number of shows, and the increasing demands on city staff, were at least part of the reason the city sought privatization.
City quiet on proposals
According to city emails, three parties initially responded to the RFP with pre-proposal questions, including Live Nation Carolinas and the Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). Philadelphia-based Spectra, which is owned principally by Comcast, also submitted questions — but it appears only Live Nation and AEG moved forward with formal proposals.
The city appears to be working to schedule presentations from both Live Nation and AEG in the coming week or so.
While Live Nation, AEG, and Spectra all had detailed questions about what the operation and management would entail, it’s likely concert-goers will be more concerned about the what private operation of the amphitheater will mean for ticket fees, concession prices, and — of course — what a new manager might mean for the kind of acts that come to Greenfield Lake.
Some answers to those questions might be in Live Nation and AEG’s proposals — but so far, the city hasn’t released any information on them.
Shortly after the RFP window closed, Port City Daily asked for copies of proposals from all responding parties and was subsequently directed by Assistant City Attorney Melissa Huffman to submit a public records request “per the usual procedure for the requested documents.” That request is pending. The city’s communication office has not answered requests for the names of the parties who submitted, although they have responded to unrelated queries.
[Disclosure notice: Live Nation has produced shows with and is a sponsor of 98.3 The Penguin, which is owned by Port City Daily’s parent company Local Voice Media. Neither The Penguin or Live Nation is involved in Port City Daily’s editorial decisions.]
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