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Transformation Of Ballpark To Music Amphitheater Progresses

October 10th, 2018 · 25 Comments · Development and Zoning, News and Events

amphitheater rendering

Rendering of amphitheater, right, across from arena.

The double plays turned at second base at the old ballpark at Harbor Yard will convert to double octaves of music next summer at the amphitheater now under construction … if weather cooperates. That’s where the stage will be equipped as work continues for a projected opening next summer showcasing some of the world’s hottest performers in a joint venture by mega concert promoter Live Nation and sports entrepreneur Howard Saffan.

amphitheater 1

Work underway converting the ballpark to a warm-weather amphitheater. A look at the second base area where the stage will be located.

In July, Saffan and Live Nation executive Jim Koplik joined city officials at the groundbreaking for a $15 million warm-weather amphitheater whose boutique tensile roof more than 100 feet high will change the face of the Downtown/South End just off I-95. The city-owned venue, replacing the ballpark where the Bluefish played, will seat roughly 5,500.

Saffan on Tuesday shared images of the construction underway. The timeline for a projected opening next summer depends on the winter and spring weather, he says.

The first phase of the project–design, structural engineering, final drawings and permitting–is complete. Phase two underway includes site work and footings. The “iconic” tensile roof, according to Saffan, is the final piece.

amphitheater 2

The ballpark’s seat configuration will remain basically the same for the amphitheater.

Who’ll enshrine the Harbor Yard Amphitheater opener? Bridgeport native John Mayer is at the top of Koplik’s list.

amphitheater 3

A broad look at the field conversion.

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. 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.

amphitheater 4

The old baseball dugout is being, well, dug out.

The facility in addition to suites will include three VIP lounges, outdoor barbecue area, hosting 50-75 annual events including concerts, festivals, community events and family shows. Fully opened, it will operate April-October. Saffan announced all but a couple of the 22 suites for the venue have been filled.

The city is splitting $15 million in improvements with the developer at the city-owned venue financed from the capital improvement fund. See contract here that was approved by the City Council.

Koplik and Saffan, former president of Webster Bank Arena, say they have resolved any outstanding issues with the current arena operators that feared the amphitheater would pose competition. Koplik emphasized that the 10,000-seat arena is underserved and he on behalf of Live Nation will book more concerts at the venue. Many indoor venues promote few concerts in the summer due to cost factors, such as air conditioning, so warm-weather amphitheaters, says Koplik, have emerged as consumer destinations.

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25 Comments so far ↓

  • Jeff Kohut

    Nothing like a power-plant behemoth to add to the shoreline draw of a casino-contingent entertainment venue…

    Has Ned committed to pushing for a Bridgeport casino? How about Pay Day Bob or the Wizard?… Without a casino to draw patrons with $, the risk to downtown development investors has much worse odds than a New York street game of 3-card Monte… I think that we won’t see much development activity downtown or at Steel Point other than new announcement signs, and the shifting of dirt piles, until the casino breaks ground…

  • Bridgeport Rising

    I think this will work out a lot better than a baseball stadium no one went to. I’ve been impressed with the level of the musical and comedy acts coming to Bridgeport lately. Bill Burr was just here and he is playing MSG next month.

  • Kelvin Ayala

    So Let’s get this straight. I guy who calls himself a developer is becoming a tenant of the city of Bridgeport. He did NOT purchase the property from the city at the estimated 3-4 Million dollar value and become a taxpayer to the city. Then he could have invested his money and get a tax abatement credits per the newly approved structure from last year up to 20 years based on total development costs.

    Nope, instead we use tax payer city funds to cover $7.5M of this conversion, only to be repaid by annual rent of min $150K. Based on ticket sales, if they average a payment of $200k a year, it will take 38 years to pay us back with ZERO interest before the city breaks even on this albatross investment to convert this property to amphitheater.

    How in the heck is this considered an economic development project when we invest in somebody else’s dream and we take 38 years to break even. Oh excuse me, it will produce a $50 Million economic impact downtown. Who in the Mickey mouse club crunched those numbers, smh. Listen, 30 eateries downtown. If all 30 made an extra $3k per event times the 30 concerts expected annually. That’s only $2.7M/yr. I promise you no restaurant make $3K a night of sold out arena events which is twice the people.

    PLEEEEEAAAAASEEE, stop calling Koplick an executive at Live Nation. He is like a 1099 independent promoter with booking rights in CT through his own company. Live Nation is a publicly traded company that is NOT making any investment in Bridgeport. Koplick has no rights to execute contracts on behalf of Live Nation, hence no signature on the contract with city. For executive leadership look here: http://www.livenationentertainment.com/leadership

    AT this stage we have no choice but the hope the best for this venue, but understand the people of Bridgeport got hosed in this decision and the majority will never set foot in the venue.

    #NOVaseline

    • Harvey Weintraub

      “AT this stage we have no choice but the hope the best for this venue, but understand the people of Bridgeport got hosed in this decision and the majority will never set foot in the venue.”

      I hear what you are saying Kelvin,but really what choices did we have?.The stadium needed extensive repairs/upgrading.Evidently when it was first constructed alot of shortcuts were taken.Quality of construction wasn’t high on the Ganim’s admins list back then,it was all about Joe getting paid by developers.Joe didn’t care about the best product for the city,he cared about how $$ was gonna be given back to him.
      So fast forward 20 years later and we were stuck with a building that was falling apart(thanks Joe!).Live Nation had the money to do something with the property.I mean if not Live Nation,let’s face it,the land would have eventually been used for a housing development just like all the empty land in Bpt turns into.

      • Kelvin Ayala

        What if I told you the opportunity was there to keep the Bluefish who would split the cost of the ballpark upgrades. Bring in a 2nd tenant in a professional soccer club that would co-use the Ballpark and drive a bit more rental income for the city. And what if I told you we could have facilitated other land use to build the amphitheater and increased the tax rolls with that development. Then we would have had more jobs, increased development, increase in rental income, increase in tax base revenue all while keeping our $7.5M. That is real, tangible development.

        The above scenario existed, was a possibility, and our administration was lazy and simply decided to award an RFP.

        I am not opposed to the amphitheater. I love the idea. I am oppose to horrible vision combined with lack of skilled economic development planning.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Kelvin, sounds like your tasty burger joint won’t be a vendor at the amphitheater. What economic impact did the ballpark have Downtown the past several years while drawing a few hundred fans per game? The people of Bridgeport got hosed? How do you know? Based on what? This project will be measured over time. As for Koplik, he’s “President Live Nation Connecticut and Upstate New York.” Ever see one of Koplik’s shows? When the venue opens, I’ll be there a lot. And before the concert I’ll dine at a Downtown restaurant. So will many others.

      • Kelvin Ayala

        Hey Lennie, full disclosure. I have not made one cent at my Moe’s Burger joint downtown in the last 5 years. I am a business and economic development consultant and well versed on what I am talking about. To your question, Every Bluefish home game, my restaurant averaged an etra $150-$250 per game night just from the uptick of families that came to games. I have to be honest, didn’t think about that impact but I felt the loss of games this year.

        I stand by my comments about Jim koplick. Awesome promoter and he has a company called Jim Koplick presents, he has exclusive right to booking shows for Live Nation including Webster Bank Arena. Don’t think for a second he didn’t purposely slow down bookings the last 2 years to help justify the amphitheater. End of the day is all business. My comment about being hosed is in regards to return on investment and economic impact for our $7.5Million.

        • Local Eyes

          Cui bono means to whose benefit?
          Live Nation will receive mega benefits with only a micro investment. Nobody understands downtown Bridgeport better than Kelvin Ayala.

      • Grin Ripper

        Give Me Two Trees? AKA: A Hard Six!

    • Frank Gyure

      Kelvin..Thanks for crunching the numbers. This really shows that taxpayers of BPt are getting screwed despite what OIB says. Those numbers are just terrible.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Lennie,
    I guess that tells Kelvin about the financials he is ignoring??? Kelvin put some numbers together. Is he accurate? You didn’t say. 38 years to return your initial funds? No interest?
    When the numbers are put together, who gets to take a look? Was there an article that we missed on OIB?
    Or perhaps the point of both entries is that this episode is just one in a series of deals where public resources get used by a private party and those resources do not generate adequate or equal benefits to each party. Can one walk away from this story with another conclusion? Time will tell.

  • Coach T

    EXCITING EXCITING TIME. IT WAS A MATTER OF TIME WHEN THE INDEPENDENT BLUEFISH WERE GOINGTO DIE. OUTDOOR VENUE WILL BE A HOMERUN. DOWNTOWN WILL BE HOPPING. CONCERT. COMEDIANS ON THE SAME NIGHT. RESTAURANTS. BARS JAMMED PACKED. EXCITING. HOW AABOUT ANOTHER BREWERY BY THE WATER?

  • Frank Gyure

    One Big wind and that iconic “tent”, will be Gone With The Wind.

  • Mojo

    *** What will happen to the arena, the Klein Memorial,etc.. with all these wonderful acts coming to Bpt. in the future? ***

    • Andrew C Fardy

      You mean places you never go to, Phoney

      • Mojo

        *** Now how would you know weather I go or not? Especially a tightwad like you that goes to Micky D’s for a special nights outing! He who lives in a glass-house regardless of how dirty & dusty the windows are, should not through stones, no? ***

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    The amphitheater will be a boon to the downtown area but at what cost? This is just another tax abatement the people of the city of Bridgeport will be paying for decades. Little Joe Ganim must’ve read Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.” He certainly hasn’t boned up on municipal management.

  • flubadub

    This is what is called “socializing the risk and privatizing the profit”.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I have been wondering why the city has been spending in excess of $500 K for the horses and the horses asses that ride them. We will get to use them at the concerts. I guess this will be another expense the tax payers will get stuck with.

  • Jeff Kohut

    The Mounted Patrol is about the best advertising that the city can buy… It distinguishes us a bit and puts a more humane face on BPD — the horses draw kids and animal lovers and put people and cops together in a positive way… Maybe a little expensive, but look at all of the other negative ways that city wastes money — such as using much of BPD to babysit spoiled SHU
    a-holes Thursdays through Sunday nights… (Their presence in Bridgeport has no up-side; economic contribution to the city is a big, net negative when all is said and done — only the out-of-town profiteers benefit by their presence in Bridgeport.)

  • Bob Halstead

    Add into the number crunching that the developer is investing $7.5 million up-front.
    Add the intangible of the arts and increased quality of life fr a riven market in Bridgeport for live music
    This is a brilliant adaptive re-use or a dead, decaying ballpark. The other road would’ve been a major embarassment, another monument to Bridgeport incompetence.
    No one thing is a panacea. Combined with the valiant efforts of those with heart in Bridgeport, we create a synergy…. One plus one =3!

  • Bob Halstead

    Proven market for live music

  • Harvey Weintraub

    I wonder if Live Nation could clean up Joe’s other “pay for play”,the shuttered Stop&Shop on Madison ave,another monument to Joe’s corruption the first time around.

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