Update: see contract here.
The City Council’s Contracts Committee in a 4-1 vote Wednesday night approved a facility development and operating agreement that allows sports entrepreneur Howard Saffan and concert promoter Jim Koplik of Live Nation to operate the warm-weather Harbor Yard Amphitheater projected to open in the spring of 2019. The contract goes to the full council for approval likely at its Nov. 6 meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30.
Council members Milta Feliciano, Anthony Paoletto, Tom McCarthy and Alfredo Castillo voted yes offering high praise for the development proposal that will convert the ballpark at Harbor Yard into a $15 million weather-proof boutique venue seating more than 6,000 including corporate suites. A unique feature of the amphitheater is a sturdy tent-like tensile roof to accommodate patrons irrespective of weather. The Saffan/Live Nation partnership called Harbor Yard Amphitheater LLC will split the renovation costs with the city. The city will finance its end from a capital development fund.
“It’s going to be an amazing destination,” said Paoletto.
Councilwoman AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia voted no, citing concerns the concert venue will have on the adjacent Webster Bank Arena where Saffan had served as president for many years. The city is in court with arena operators battling over fees owed the city. Prior to his tenure at Webster Bank Arena Saffan managed the Nassau Coliseum.
Saffan and Koplik stressed that the amphitheater will serve as a complement to the arena which produces few summer concerts. The city owns both venues. Koplik said that Live Nation, the top concert promoter in the country, will “plant a flag here in Bridgeport” leveraging the Fairfield County market, adding that the amphitheater visibility will boost the city’s concert reputation to become a winter destination for acts that are a better fit for an indoor environment. Live Nation also owns Ticketmaster where most U.S. concerts are ticketed.
Who’d be Koplik’s first pick to christen the venue in 2019? Bridgeport-born John Mayer, a conversation, he says, he’ll have with the guitar wizard once the full council approves the contract.
Following a request for proposals Mayor Joe Ganim selected the amphitheater pitch over a renewed submission by the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team that played at Harbor Yard for 20 years. The Bluefish will play its 2018 season totally on the road in the Atlantic League in anticipation of a new home in North Carolina for the 2019 season. City officials say the ballpark needed upgrades comparable in price to what the concert venue will cost.
City officials stressed that the amphitheater proposal brings a stronger economic impact to the city in terms of jobs, payments to the city and overflow to local vendors and restaurants. The contract guarantees the city $150,000 annually in rent, but with a projected take on ticket sales estimated at roughly $450,000.
The facility will have 20 luxury suites, three VIP lounges, outdoor barbecue area, hosting 50-75 annual events including concerts, festivals, community events and family shows. It will operate April-October.
Several council members who are not on the Contracts Committee also attended the presentation. Prior to the amphitheater vote the council committee also approved a five-year contract for Fire Chief Richard Thode. That too goes on to the full council.
Here’s the executive summary presented to the Contracts Committee, in addition to a 35-page contract:
Parties: City of Bridgeport (the “City”) Harbor Yard Amphitheater, LLC (“HYA”)
• The proposed Agreement recognizes that HYA has entered into a contractual, strategic relationship with Live Nation Entertainment, Inc.
• The City and HYA agree to renovate the Facility at 500 Main Street, previously home to the Bridgeport Bluefish in order to make the Facility a top-of-the-line outdoor concert and event venue.
• The “Renovation Budget” shall be approximately Fifteen Million Dollars ($15,000,000). HYA and the City each shall contribute up to Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($7,500,000) in capital, except that HYA shall be solely responsible for any renovation costs in excess of Fifteen Million ($15,000,000) Dollars.
• HYA has agreed to (i) use good faith efforts to commit approximately 50% of renovation dollars to union shops, and (ii) to use Good Faith Efforts, as defined in the City of Bridgeport’s Minority Business Enterprise Ordinance, to employ qualified minority subcontractors in order to achieve or exceed the mandatory requirements.
• HYA will have exclusive care, custody and control of the Facility to host (with Live Nation as the exclusive promoter) to host a minimum of twenty (20) concert events and fifty (50) other events each year during the term of the Agreement commencing calendar year 2019.
• The renovated Facility will contain approximately five thousand five hundred (5,500) permanent seats, or as many attendees as may be permitted by law, but in no event in excess of the capacity permitted by the terms of the existing Arena Operating Agreement between the City and the operator of the Webster Bank Arena (until such Arena Operating Agreement terminates, is modified or is determined to be nonapplicable) or as may be otherwise limited by this Agreement (whichever is least).
• Facility includes twenty (20) luxury suites, three (3) VIP clubs/lounges, an outdoor barbeque terrace, VIP parking and such other features and amenities as the parties may agree to and the City may approve. The City shall receive one complimentary skybox suite and twenty (20) mid-price seats per event.
• Agreement shall commence upon the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, and shall terminate twenty (20) years thereafter (the “Term”), unless extended by mutual option.
• The Term may be renewed by mutual written agreement for two (2) additional ten (10) year periods.
• The Rent (“PILOT” in lieu of real property taxes), shall be Three Dollars ($3.00) per Manifested Concert Ticket Sold for the first five (5) years of the Term. The PILOT payment will increase in years 6, 11 and 15.
• Manifested Concert Ticket Sold shall mean tickets sold for concert Events including Premium Seating but shall not include: (a) a reasonable number of complementary tickets that the performer approves for distribution at the performer’s Event, if any, and (b) skybox suite and Harbor Club seating.
• HYA shall pay to the City a guaranteed minimum Rent of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($150,000) annually.
• The first Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000) of Rent payments annually goes into the City’s general fund. Rent payments in excess of Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000) per year shall be deposited into the Capital Repair & Replacement Account. Thereafter, the Capital Repair & Replacement Account shall maintain a balance of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000).
• HYA shall also pay the City’s five percent (5%) admissions tax, in addition to the Rent payments.
• HYA shall pay all Bridgeport Water Pollution Control Authority (the “WPCA”) user fees and assessments for the Facility.
• All maintenance, as well as Capital Repairs and Replacements costing $25,000 or less shall be the sole and exclusive responsibility of the Operator. Capital Repairs and Replacements only costing in excess of $25,000 shall be the responsibility of the City.
• Financial risk to the City is mitigated by phasing of the project and the City retaining rights to issue a notice to proceed. In the event that the City does not issue a notice to proceed, the City is not obligated to reimburse the Operator any costs or expenses of the Operator, including but not limited to professional design and engineering fees.
• Within thirty (30) days after execution of this Agreement, HYA shall commence preparation of preliminary design drawings in accordance with the Schedule. All drawings are subject to approval by the City in its sole discretion. Final design drawings shall be submitted to the City within one hundred eighty (180) days of the execution of this Agreement, unless such time shall be extended by the City.
• HYA shall be the sole operator of any Parking Lots made available for such events by the City. In the event HYA shall charge a parking fee for use of such Parking Lots, it shall pay thirty (30) percent of the gross revenue from such parking to the City.