City officials float idea: Could parks department run the Greek Theatre?

After battle over Greek Theatre, parks officials suggest L.A. could operate the venue

Entertainment titans have battled for months over who should run Los Angeles' Greek Theatre.

A city commission recommended Live Nation for the job, but the City Council disagreed with that pick. Neighborhood groups have pressed for longtime operator Nederlander to stay in charge of the Griffith Park venue alongside its new partner, AEG.

That debate has triggered legal threats, played a part in political campaigns and set off an avalanche of lobbying at City Hall. Now the saga could take an unexpected turn: Parks officials have suggested that the city could operate the theater.

Parks department officials are recommending that the city commission toss out its last request for proposals to run the Greek, as lawmakers had urged them to do. It could then redo the process -- or it could operate the Greek itself as an “open venue,” department officials said.

Running the Greek would let the city maintain control of the concert calendar, a department report says. Instead of a single promoter such as Live Nation running the venue, different promoters could confirm performers with the parks department on “a non-exclusive basis.”

Concert promoters would still produce the shows and bear the risk and expense of doing so, according to the report. The city would also eliminate the middleman for providing food concessions and parking, which could bring more revenue to the parks department.

The report concluded that “the open venue model is a viable option worth pursuing.” The Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver is a successful example of the “open venue” model, it added, with a booking policy that confirms acts on a “first come first served basis.”

Denver "has done it this way for decades," said Red Rocks spokesman Brian Kitts. He added, "We keep the revenue that we make.... It's a system that really works for us."

Kitts said Red Rocks generated $18 million in gross revenue last year, which helps pay for venue security, maintenance and operations but also provides for long-term maintenance of the facility. A "small portion" of the money goes to maintain a surrounding park, he added.

The "open venue" idea was greeted skeptically by Chris Laib, president of the Los Feliz Improvement Assn., who cautioned he was not speaking for his group. The organization has backed keeping the Greek under the control of Nederlander, which has run it for decades.

"I think the city needs to hunker down and get good at its core business before it gets into the concert business," Laib said, adding, "It would be like Live Nation or AEG or Nederlander trying to run Griffith Park for a day."

Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges issued a statement late Friday in reaction to the parks department report, saying that his company and AEG were pleased that the previous recommendation to choose Live Nation appeared to be "set aside."

“While we are confident that we are the best possible operator of the Greek, we also look forward to cooperatively working with the city as it considers the next options available for the venue," Hodges wrote. 

Live Nation did not immediately provide comment Friday afternoon.

The parks commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, is slated to discuss the operation of the Greek Theatre at its next meeting on Wednesday.

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