A new, 12,000-seat outdoor amphitheater could open in Irvine as early as next summer.
Live Nation says it would operate the "interim" venue, which would temporarily replace the closing Irvine Meadows amphitheater. Live Nation also says they hope to build a new permanent venue in Irvine in the coming years.
Live Nation's partner on the project, developer FivePoint Communities, has submitted an application with the City of Irvine to build a temporary venue on the periphery of the city-owned Orange County Great Park. The park sits on the decommissioned Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, about five miles from the current Irvine Meadows site.
Irvine Meadows, which has a capacity of around 16,000, will close at the end of October after two final shows featuring Gwen Stefani. The 35-year-old venue is set to be leveled in early 2017.
FivePoint says it hopes to open the temporary venue in time for the summer 2017 concert season. The two companies have entered into a three-year agreement, which will allow them to run the interim amphitheater while Live Nation finds a home for a permanent venue.
"Our longterm goal is to build another [permanent] amphitheater in the area," says Bret Gallagher, Live Nation’s president of North American concerts for Southern California. "We have been having conversations with the City of Irvine for several years, but this is the first time we're getting real positive traction from fans, from the city [and] from FivePoint to really make our dream reality come true, so to speak."
Both Live Nation and FivePoint hope to eventually develop a part of the Orange County Great Park called the Cultural Terrace for the permanent amphitheater. They say talks with the City of Irvine with regard to the permanent facility are in the "infancy stages."
Meanwhile, FivePoint has filed an application for an interim permit in a location on land they own on the periphery of the Great Park. According to a City of Irvine spokesperson, their application must be approved by the city's director of community development, and won't require a public hearing.
The Great Park itself was originally approved by Irvine voters in 2002, but has never been fully developed at the scale initially promised. Instead, it has been the source of almost 15 years of drama, culminating with a city audit in 2015 that alleged cronyism and mismanagement. In recent years, FivePoint has developed the park in a partnership with the City of Irvine, at the same time constructing housing developments along its periphery.
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Live Nation says programming at both its interim amphitheater and its permanent venue, if they should be approved, would be comparable to what concertgoers have seen at Irvine Meadows in recent years.
And the company says they're committed to building another large outdoor venue in Orange County no matter the outcome at the Great Park. "The tradition and the history has proven out," says Gallagher. "Irvine Meadows consistently draws big acts, and great attendance at the venue year after year, which means the demand is there. As far as we're concerned, a live [outdoor] music venue in ... Irvine or in Orange County is a tradition. We've proven that year after year, and we want to keep that tradition going."
In its storied run, Irvine Meadows played host to Michael Jackson, Lollapalooza, the Grateful Dead and many more. This past summer, the venue saw performances from the Dave Matthews Band, Alabama Shakes, Jane's Addiction and Blink-182.
The venue also hosts several recurring events, including the Pacific Symphony and the KROQ Weenie Roast, which has taken place at Irvine Meadows every year since its inception in 1993. Gallagher says Live Nation would like to continue to host both events at the interim venue but will not have formal conversations with the producers of those events until permits are approved.