CONCORD -- After several years of watching the Sleep Train Pavilion frequently sit idle during the concert season, city leaders wanted a promoter that would bring some buzz back to the 38-year-old amphitheater.
With the existing management contract expiring at the end of the year, council members set three goals for the venue -- more shows, a major face-lift and enough revenue to cover the debt.
Live Nation, which has managed the Pavilion since 2000, got the message.
"We are committed to reinvigorating the Concord Pavilion and take responsibility for less programming than we would have liked over the last couple of years," said Matt Prieshoff, chief operating officer of Live Nation California. "I think the plan we've put in place for the venue is the plan that will put the venue back on the map in a big way."
The City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider a 10-year contract with Live Nation that includes an option for a five-year extension if the promoter meets certain targets.
Under the proposed contract, Live Nation would pay the city a guaranteed $800,000 annually plus a bonus on every ticket sold over 100,000 in a year. The bonus would begin at $3 a ticket during the first five years of the contract and rise to $4 per ticket after that. If Live Nation extends the contract, the city would get $900,000 a year plus $5 per ticket sold over 100,000.
Currently, the city gets $500,000 a year from Live Nation plus a $3 surcharge for each ticket sold. City Manager Valerie Barone believes the city hit the $300,000 target from the surcharge only once since the contract went into effect in 2011.
"I believe this contract is definitely better for us financially," Barone said.
Concord uses the revenue from the Pavilion to repay the bond debt from the 1995 renovation. In 2009, the city borrowed from its sewer and affordable housing fund to buy back $8 million of the $12 million in outstanding bonds from the renovation project. Before refinancing, the city was tapping the general fund to make the annual Pavilion debt payments.
Concord is scheduled to pay off the remaining $3.8 million to outside bondholders in 2020. The city has been paying interest on the internal loans, and payments on the $8 million in principal are scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2014.
Live Nation also must spend $3.7 million on capital improvements which may include remodeling the main entrance and backstage dressing rooms. The contract also calls for Live Nation and the city to spend about $1.1 million each on maintenance over 10 years.
In its heyday, the Pavilion drew dozens of popular acts every year and large audiences. 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 hasn't bounced back; there were 11 shows in 2012 and only nine this year.
As part of the proposed agreement, 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 promoter also must mount 75 shows during the five-year extension period. Live Nation must pay Concord a $40,000 fine for each show it fails to deliver.
The proposal also includes perks for the community. Live Nation agreed to provide 1,000 free tickets to residents and 1,000 for Concord schoolchildren a year, to develop an educational outreach program to expose children to the performing arts, to set aside 300 tickets for each concert for residents to buy before tickets go on sale, and to set up an advisory committee for the Pavilion.
Barone praised the council members for their vision and the Live Nation team for their creativity and enthusiasm.
"I believe that the Concord council made this happen. They were very clear that something needed to change and we needed a renewed commitment and reinvigoration of the facility," Barone said. "Because they made that so clear, I believe we ended up with a much better contract than we would have."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
What: Concord City Council meeting
When: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Council Chamber, Concord Civic Center, 1950 Parkside Drive