Expected to open in 2025, the Irvine City Council and the Great Park Board of Directors agreed to terms, on Tuesday, Sept. 27, with LiveNation that will bring a permanent 14,000 seat amphitheater into the Great Park.

As a key component to the new Great Park Framework, which was approved by the Irvine City Council in August, the new LiveNation Amphitheater in Irvine will draw design inspiration from iconic venues such as the Hollywood Bowl and Millennium Park Amphitheater in Chicago according to Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi. The agreement, according to the terms, will also bring plenty of economic benefits to Irvine.

In a phone interview with Irvine Weekly, Chi explained that once built, the agreement with LiveNation will generate more than $3.5 million annually, from a base operating fee for the venue.

“What the agreement contemplates is the city and LiveNation would engage together on a design process. After the design we’d asses whether or not the facility can be constructed for an amount commensurate with the economic value that LiveNation will be contributing and paying to the city to operate the facility,” he said. “The city will then construct the facility with the goal of turning it over to LiveNation for them to operate, starting with the 2025 concert season.”

From an economic standpoint, the permanent amphitheater will generate revenue for the city of Irvine in a few different ways. For starters, LiveNation will contribute $20 million toward the project, and will also pay a $5.00 per-ticket fee that will be split evenly with the city of Irvine once events begin. Chi also added that the base operating agreement comes with an annual percentage increase.

“The agreement contemplates LiveNation bringing a $20 million as an initial capital contribution toward the facility; they would pay a base operating fee of 3.5%, that would escalate at 3% annually. We’ve targeted using our independent financial analyst’s projected cost of capital of 4-5% and it falls right within the parameters for a deal up to $130 million,” he said. “We don’t know what it will cost to build it until we get through the design process, but that’s sort of the upper limit of what we think the deal can be valued at, based on what we’ve negotiated with LiveNation.”

Visually speaking, the outdoor amphitheater will feature a distinct landscaping feature known as a berm, and will also feature a sunken stage.

In a 4-1 vote, the Great Park Board of Directors and the City Council approved the new outdoor amphitheater project during a five-hour Great Park board meeting. Director Larry Agran had strong hesitation with approval and was the only person to vote against moving forward.

Specifically, Agran took issue with the aspect of traffic coming through the Great Park during event days.

“You’re real confident that all this is going to be handled? This is going to be fine? Frankly, I don’t believe it,” Agran said.

Chi said given the extensive research on traffic related to the area, the city has a high degree of confidence it will efficiently control traffic for cars entering and exiting the Great Park.

“The way that the circulation system has been modeled, it’s been studied through the traffic analysis that was conducted – 30 intersections looked at utilizing the interior road system and the access off of Great Park Blvd and Marine Way,” he said. “The study found that traffic impacts are negligible. As a staff, we believe it’s accurate to say this. There won’t be a traffic impact on the neighborhood.”

The new amphitheater will use approximately 25 acres within the Great Park’s newly approved framework, which includes a 75-acre botanical garden, a library and numerous water features across a total of 750 acres. The outdoor amphitheater will be positioned north of the Wild Rivers Waterpark.

Bret Gallagher, president of Southern California Live Nation, spoke to Irvine Weekly via phone to discuss the culmination of efforts over the years between the City of Irvine, LiveNation and FivePoint.

Speaking on years of work tied to this agreement, Gallagher said he’s proud to be able to continue the tradition of live music in Irvine, which started with Irvine Meadows.

When Irvine Meadows went down in 2016, the desire and goal of the City Council, city staff and LiveNation was always trying to find a way to keep live music alive in Irvine. The good news is; we found FivePoint – I give FivePoint all the credit for giving us the property, to build our temporary FivePoint Amphitheater on, and the city has supported it since Day 1.”

For Gallagher, time was the most challenging aspect to endure during this long process. And while Gallagher says he is aware of the pushback from residents in the community who are opposed to the permanent amphitheater.

“We’re great community partners. We’re great partners with people who enjoy music. We understand that there’s a community at the Great Park – we’ll work closely with them and respect their wants and needs,” he said. “I think people just want to be heard. I view this as a collaborative experience.”

The decision comes nearly six years after Irvine’s previous live music venue, Irvine Meadows, was closed in 2016. In fact, the last shows at Irvine Meadows were held Oct. 29 & 30, 2016.

As both the city of Irvine and LiveNation begin to embark on this monumental build for Irvine and Orange County, Gallagher said is excited to have the opportunity to watch a state-of-the-art project of this magnitude be completed from the ground up.

“I’ve worked at lots of amphitheaters in my time at LiveNation and Canada. We’re very proud of all our amphitheaters, upgrade constantly, and we improve the artist and guest experience. So, I’m excited to work collaboratively with our designers and the great people at LiveNation,” he said. “We’re going to make this one state of the art.”

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