“This Is About Doing Right For Bridgeport”–City Council Tours Boutique Amphitheater Opening Summer 2020

Free parking, free weekly movies, free Greater Bridgeport Symphony pops music and free high school graduations will complement big-name concert acts and community events at the city-owned Harbor Yard Amphitheater scheduled to open this summer. The boutique venue will seat 6,500-7,000.

Rendering of amphitheater.

Sports-entertainment entrepreneur Howard Saffan, operator of the venue, provided a facility tour Saturday morning to City Council members that included front of house, back of house, staging, seating, beer gardens, restaurants, corporate suites, VIP lounges and bathrooms with Italian marble.

“This is about doing right for Bridgeport,” Saffan told 10 council members highlighting some of the free events the venue will host on behalf of the community, including staging high school graduations for no venue fee. Saffan has also partnered with Bow Tie Cinemas to showcase a free weekly movie.

View of the stage from suite area.

Saffan has partnered with the city to transform the former Ballpark at Harbor Yard into a warm-weather entertainment destination. Mega concert promoter Live Nation has already booked unannounced concert acts for this summer, the opener scheduled for July.

Bridgeport native and guitar wizard John Mayer is one of the rumored names for the opening show. He’s now part of the supergroup Dead & Company, featuring members of the Grateful Dead Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir.

Dozens of workers were on site building out the venue in advance of installation of the signature 12-story tensile membrane roof held in place by steel cables. Saffan says the construction project is paying a prevailing wage to all workers with two-thirds union members and about half of the workers thus far Bridgeport residents.

Donuts and coffee greeted council members.

Several council members including Ernie Newton (see video above) and Jorge Cruz captured parts of the tour in real time on social media.

The contract between the city and Saffan guarantees the city $150,000 annually in rent, but with a projected take on ticket sales estimated at roughly $450,000.

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25 comments

  1. If just about everything is free, then how will the amphitheater finance it’s cleanups following movies and such and its general maintenance and energy and water costs ???

    Nothing is free ! Someone is going to have to pay for all of these freebies and will that be the homeowners of Bridgeport ?

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    1. Robert, the venue will generate revenue from ticket sales via concerts and other paid events. The city owns the facility but it’s being operated by a private entity through a long-term lease. Howard Saffan has loads of experience operating multi-purpose entertainment destinations such as Nassau Coliseum and Webster Bank Arena.

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  2. I’m sure the prices for the popcorn , beer or anything else sold will not be any different then any other professional event. The people that go to these events know what they will be paying if they choose to go.

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  3. I went to the initial presentations and thought this project was a “go” then and it shows success today.
    No particular credit to OPED as it is a lucky strike.

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  4. For a venue like this, you gauge success by the number of sold out concerts. They have yet to announce one let alone ticket sales. Not good.
    You have Hartford Xfinity, Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, MGM, all with events in the summertime. Bridgeport arena did not have a single concert last year. Not good.

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    1. Of course, that’s a sure way to count on their vote, some way someone is coming to provide them with those tickets, I’m sure Mario knows who to contact.

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  5. If the Blue Fish and Webster Bank Arena couldn’t attract enough business to avoid $2,000,000/yr city subsidies in a growing Connecticut economy, how is this new, more specialized venue going to do any better or assume any longevity in a recessionary state economy, with a decreasing population, that is losing its remaining middle class and much
    of its remaining affluence?! This was (is) a casino-contingent venture and will not be able to wait out a casino, much less a vastly-improved Bridgeport economy defined in terms fully-employed (at living-wage jobs) populace — the sine qua non of the success any significant municipal venture… More ill-conceived, ill-timed, development-non-planning-in-reverse… (Despite the Saffron promotion, Saffan and Bridgeport taxpayers are in for a rough ride…)

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  6. The City already owned the Bluefish Arena. The Mayor and the City Council approved a $7,000,000 Bond to renovate the arena in the same year they voted to give our 20,000 public school students ZERO in additional funding.

    I am completely opposed to any form of corporate welfare. The developer should have footed the cost of the renovation 100%.

    The contract required the developer to pay $150,000 in rent annually. That is a meager $12,500 per month. It is ESTIMATED that Bridgeport will receive approximately $450,000 in annual revenue based on its share of ticket sales.

    If the $7,000,000 Bond is paid back at 3% over 20 years making monthly payment of $25,000 annually that $7,000,000 loan will have cost taxpayers over $5,000,000 in interest alone.

    Bridgeport taxpayers are going to pay back $12,000,000 on a $7,000,000 loan.

    I am not against the Ampitheatre. I am against corporate welfare for a wealthy developer that should have footed the project at his own cost, not on the backs of overburdened Bridgeport taxpayers.

    This developer will NOT be paying any real estate taxes because it is a city owned property. He should however be paying personal property taxes.

    This project was not in the best interest of Bridgeport tax payers.

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  7. Both Joe Ganim and Bill Finch as Bridgeport’s mayor had no problem with these give a ways both Finch took it to a new low of giving developers 40 years of not paying a penny in taxes. During G1 Bridgeport had the reputation nation wide of doing business that you had to pay to play. Politics is dirty business and Money is the Mother’s Milk of Politics and this past election Bridgeport put “the Fox guarding the hen house” in charge again with the City’s legislative branch of City government, the City Council, are mostly in lock step with the Fox, Joe and Mario.

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