New venue will keep the concert culture alive in Irvine
Concertgoers in Orange County saddened with the closing of Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre this month can look forward to a new venue less than two miles away without missing a beat.
Land developer FivePoint Communities in partnership with Live Nation Entertainment unveiled a joint plan to construct a temporary 12,000-seat facility on the southwest perimeter of the Orange County Great Park with expectations of opening in time for next year’s summer concert series.
Pending permit approvals from the City of Irvine, the venue will be licensed for up to three years as plans for a permanent amphitheater within the cultural terrace of the Great Park are developed.
“I want to see it completed and finished hopefully by spring so we can get the concerts moving and there won’t be any downtime with the close (of Irvine Meadows),” said Irvine city councilwoman Christina Shea, one of several guest speakers at the announcement Tuesday.
“The city just has to approve the noise continuation and what that’s going to look like. Also, the parking permits and how the flow of traffic is going to work,” Shea added.
Live Nation Southern California President Bret Gallagher praised FivePoint for partnering in a solution that extends a 35-year tradition of first-class live entertainment in Irvine.
“When our lease was ending, they stepped up, found this piece of property for us and have been a great building partner with us since day one,” Gallagher said.
Opened in 1981, Irvine Meadows has annually staged the most popular acts in all genres of music including Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Oingo Boingo, Billy Joel, and Garth Brooks. The curtain closes this month with final performances by Jimmy Buffet and Orange County native Gwen Stefani.
Over the years, the facility, known for more than a decade as Verizon Amphitheatre under a sponsorship agreement, supported numerous groundbreaking musical festivals including Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair, the Christian Fishfest, and the alternative Weenie Roast sponsored by radio station KROQ.
The stage also has been the long-time home of the Pacific Symphony outdoor concert series, which will be performed at the OC Fairgrounds this season with plans to return next year.
“This venue gets the A-list rock stars. Anybody who is anybody at the time over the last 35 years —they played here,” said Jeremy Skiver, 47, a Newport Beach business owner who saw his first concert at the amphitheater during the mid ‘80s.
A season ticket holder at Irvine Meadows for more than a decade, Skiver expressed why a first rate outdoor concert destination in Orange County is a vital component in the community.
“We’ve got a baseball team and a hockey team, and then most of the other stuff you’ve got to drive up to L.A.,” Skiver said. “But we’ve always had rock ‘n’ roll. The point is, rock ‘n’ roll has never had a losing season. There’s always going to be people showing up. There is no opposition to live music. You are all in.”
“Our approach to building communities is to connect people together and connect elements together,” said FivePoint chairman and CEO Emile Haddad. “You have to find places where people naturally can connect.”
Tuesday’s announcement was made on the tented site of the temporary venue on approximately 45 acres of private property owned by FivePoint. The site is less than two miles due east across the 5 freeway from Irvine Meadows.
The event featured large artistic renderings of the new project, the proposed permanent facility and the Great Park Championship baseball and soccer complexes already under construction.
Haddad explained the philosophy of master planning with community involvement in mind.
“Sports is a place where families go, kids compete, friendships are made, champions are made. That’s a great place for connectivity,” he said. “Live music is another place where people come together from all walks of life and relationships are built.”
“We’re hoping this becomes a totally different experience and elevates everything,” Haddad said.
Live Nation will build the temporary facility similar to the America’s Cup concert venue that the company erected on the San Francisco waterfront for the 2013 international sailing event.
As the project appears to be a win-win for the principals involved, including the concert-going public and all expect the Irvine city council will approve the necessary permits, there could be opposition from the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Third District supervisor Todd Spitzer, who represents the portion of Irvine that includes the Great Park, said he strongly supports the temporary amphitheater but there could be a conflict with the board.
Because the county controls 100 acres of property west of the transportation center — adjacent to the proposed concert site — traffic policy restrictions could be a problem.
“There are only so many vehicle trips per hour (in the area) allowed under the mandate,” Spitzer explained by phone, “and (other) supervisors could take exception if the traffic flow cuts into the area around the train station.”
At the same time, Spitzer, who was unable to attend the announcement, emphasized why he wants to see the project approved.
“This is consistent with being a destination for everyone that the Great Park is supposed to be,” Spitzer said. “This project is too important to let the county interfere. This is what will make the Great Park great.”