The Burbank City Council has tentatively approved an agreement with a Santa Monica-based concert promotion and booking firm to run the troubled Starlight Amphitheatre.
Richard I. Inga, the city's parks and recreation director, said he is confident that the firm, World Entertainment Services, will be able to turn the city-owned Starlight around. He said WES has the financial resources and entertainment industry contacts that would help in booking artists to perform at the 6,000-capacity outdoor theater.
The Starlight's previous operator, Tim Pinch, was fired by the council in January after city officials claimed that he had not presented "broad and varied entertainment" during the three years that he managed the Starlight.
The agreement will come before the council for final approval after details have been worked out between city officials and WES executives.
Under terms of the agreement, WES, a subsidiary of the high-powered Weintraub Entertainment Group, would take over the Starlight on a two-year trial basis. If the City Council is happy with the firm's performance, the city has the option of negotiating a long-term agreement.
Councilman Robert R. Bowne voted against the agreement, saying he opposed the commercialization of the Starlight.
"I don't believe this is the kind of site that will ever be successful without having an negative impact on the surrounding residential community," Bowne said. The Starlight, in the Verdugo Mountains in northwest Burbank, can only be reached by driving through residential neighborhoods.
"My preference would be to keep it as a site for community events rather than a commercial site," he said.
But Inga said WES offered a "unique opportunity" for the city to host popular acts.
WES has owned and operated the Sandstone Amphitheatre in Kansas City since 1986. The firm presented 26 shows last year and has booked 36 shows this year, Inga said. Most of the shows featured popular acts and country music artists, he said.
The Starlight has been plagued for more than a decade with financial problems and legal difficulties. From 1979 to 1984, only a few city-related events were staged there, and city officials complained that previous operators had not been able to live up to city officials' hopes of attracting major entertainers.
One promoter, Cinevision, won a $4.8-million judgment from the city in 1985 after its director, Jack Berwick, argued that Burbank had unfairly prevented him from staging rock concerts.