In a major victory for the venue’s current operator, a City Council committee on Monday rejected a recommendation to turn management of the Greek Theatre over to Live Nation.
The city’s Recreation and Parks Commission had voted in October to contract with Live Nation instead of sticking with long-time management company Nederlander. Today’s 4-1 decision by the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee will now to go the full City Council for consideration. If the council concurs with the committee, the issue will be sent back to the parks commission for further discussion.
Supporters of Nederlander, the venue’s operator for the past 39 years, packed the committee meeting at City Hall to urge city leaders to delay or reject the parks commission’s recommendation.
Nederlander has argued that its package promises $17.5 million more in rent revenue — the only dollars guaranteed to go to the city. Live Nation’s proposal included more money for improvements to the facility, and offered $25 million in the first year of the contract, while Nederlander proposed spending $18 million in the first two years on upgrades to the facility.
Some residents said they do not trust Live Nation to be sensitive to the traffic and noise annoyances that concert-goers create, with one saying the city should hand out Ambien, a sleeping pill, to residents if Live Nation is chosen.
Several neighborhood councils have called on the city to reconsider the Recreation and Parks Commission’s decision to award the contract to Live Nation.
Recreation and Parks Department officials said an independent panel scored Live Nation higher because the company offered more money to improve the facilities than Nederlander. General Manager Mike Shull said the department designed the bidding process to “encourage innovation” and to “look forward beyond what the Greek is currently today.”
While Nederlander guaranteed more in rent, Shull said, the upgrades to the venue are important because “investing in our facilities is something we don’t do very well in the city.”
Both proposals included raising the roof of the stage to attract “bigger and better shows” to the theater, Shull said. The difference was that Nederlander proposed repairing the venue’s seating, stage and terrace, while Live Nation went a step further by proposing to replace those same parts of the theater, he said.
Live Nation also promised to schedule at least 70 shows a year, while Nederland guaranteed only 50, he said.
Nederlander also did not state how much it would spend on community benefits, Shull said, while Live Nation’s proposal included an annual $300,000 contribution to a community trust fund over 20 years.
Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes The Greek Theatre, threw his support behind Nederlander, saying he believes the company successfully worked with the neighboring community to reduce noise and traffic impacts.
“It’s not about money, it’s about community,” said LaBonge, who introduced the motion to reject the commission’s recommendation.
Councilman Joe Buscaino cast the dissenting vote, saying that meddling with the process will give the impression that “L.A. is business unfriendly.”
Live Nation won by a “wide margin,” he said. “There are no flat footballs here.”
Buscaino’s own motion to hold the issue within the City Council committee for further discussion failed.
Nederlander CEO Alex Hodges said the company is pleased by the committee’s decision and “we look forward to the full City Council concurring with the committee.”
Live Nation officials said they were confident the city will eventually decide in their favor.
“The extended team at Live Nation is committed to earning this contract and operating the Greek Theatre in a way that will make all of Los Angeles proud,” according to the company.
Live Nation’s venues in Los Angeles include the Wiltern and the Hollywood Palladium. The company also ran the recent Made in America Festival at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.
Nederlander operates the Pantages Theatre and the City National Grove of Anaheim.
— City News Service