CONCORD -- Visitors to the Concord Pavilion this summer will find a venue spruced up with fresh paint, lush landscaping and renovated amenities.
With the first artists set to take the stage in late May at the KBLX Stone Soul Concert, promoter Live Nation is racing to complete $3.7 million worth of upgrades at the 39-year-old amphitheater.
"It's a very ambitious timeline, so we'll see if that's possible," said Joan Carrico, Concord's director of parks and recreation.
The long list of projects includes remodeling the box office; painting; repaving pathways and plazas; renovating concession stands and restrooms; and adding benches, $115,000 worth of trees and flowers and a new lawn.
"It's a lot of little things that are going to add up to big things when we reopen," said Matt Prieshoff, chief operating officer of Live Nation California.
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.
"It's wonderful because they're really working hard to leverage their almost $4 million and spread it as far as they can and address two sides of the coin," Carrico said. "The part the city cares about, the infrastructure, and the things customers will see."
After several years of disappointing concert seasons, under the 10-year contract Live Nation signed in December, the company must reinvigorate the Pavilion.
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 nine last year.
So far, Live Nation has booked 13 acts through October -- including James Taylor, Lionel Richie, Chicago and Bay Area favorite Journey.
The company also attracted artists with younger fans by creating a general admission section in front of the stage. Live Nation plans to take out the fixed seats from the amphitheater's lowest level and replace them with removable cushioned chairs.
"There are a lot of touring acts today that like the intimacy of having the fans very close to them, and they feel that seats inhibit that," Prieshoff said. "By taking seats out and providing that open space, you can create an intimate feel with the artist. It provides a great energy that the band really feeds off."
This will be the configuration when Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy and country star Luke Bryan perform at the Pavilion. Carrico noted that the flexible space also will allow Live Nation to set up a T-shaped stage or tables for dining. 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.
Prieshoff said tickets are selling well, which could be good news for Concord.
Live Nation is paying the city 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. Concord uses the revenue from the Pavilion to repay the bond debt from the venue's 1995 expansion from 8,500 to 12,500 seats.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
Concord residents can buy tickets for Concord Pavilion shows the day before they go on sale to the general public. Residents must show a current utility bill and valid photo ID with matching address at the Pavilion box office, 2000 Kirker Pass Road. For information on pre-sale dates, call 925-363-5701.