CONCORD -- Following a feverish renovation this spring, the Concord Pavilion has been transformed from drab to fab.
Live Nation, which signed a 10-year management contract with the city in December, spent $3.7 million on new paint, landscaping, restroom fixtures, dressing rooms and other amenities to get the 39-year-old amphitheater ready for the summer concert season.
Matt Prieshoff, chief operating officer of Live Nation California, recently gave council members and the city staff a tour of the venue which opened late last month. The front gate is the only unfinished project, according to Prieshoff. The unsightly tangle of metal and vines known as the "birdcage" was removed and tents will be in place for the first month until the permanent shade structure is built.
Inside, the buildings' gray, cinder block walls have been covered with plaster panels painted in a muted color scheme of gold, burnt orange and olive green. At the new "general store" -- the first at a Live Nation amphitheater -- concertgoers can buy a wide range of sundries, including flip-flops, snacks, beverages, blankets, hats and sunscreen.
New shade structures over the restroom entrances and concession stands will protect visitors from the sun, and the plaza bar will dispense mixed drinks from the tap.
The company removed three video tunnels that partially blocked the view of the stage from the lawn seats and installed a new sound system. To create a general admission space for the younger acts, Live Nation replaced the fixed seats in the amphitheater's lowest level with 2,500 removable cushioned folding chairs.
Some improvements won't be visible to concertgoers, but are important for attracting top-tier talent to the venue. Backstage, performers will find new showers, renovated dressing rooms and bathrooms, and a remodeled lounge with flat screen TVs, a pool table and Wi-Fi. In a new outdoor space furnished with tables, chairs and couches, artists can relax, enjoy a meal and greet fans.
"Overall, we're really, really happy with how this backstage area turned out," Prieshoff said.
After several years of disappointing concert seasons, the city insisted that Live Nation reinvigorate the Pavilion if the company wanted to continue managing the amphitheater.
From 2004 to 2008, there was an average of about 20 shows a year. Then the recession hit the concert industry hard, bands cut back on touring and fans spent less on live entertainment. And the Pavilion has struggled to recover; there were 11 shows in 2012 and nine last year.
During both five-year periods of the contract, Live Nation must book a minimum of 75 concerts that draw an audience of at least 3,000 a show. The company must pay the city a $40,000 fine for each show it fails to deliver.
So far, Live Nation has booked 16 acts through October and has two more shows to announce, Prieshoff said.
The company is paying Concord a guaranteed $800,000 annually, plus a bonus on every ticket sold over 100,000 in a year. The bonus begins at $3 a ticket during the first five years of the contract and increases to $4 a ticket after that. The city uses the revenue from the Pavilion to repay the bond debt from the venue's 1995 expansion from 8,500 to 12,500 seats.
Prieshoff estimates 150,000 to 175,000 visitors to the Pavilion this year.
"That is my gift to you, I think you're in bonus money today if my calculations are correct," he told the council.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.