Council Committee Approves Concert Amphitheater At Harbor Yard

Saffan, Koplik
Howard Saffan, left, and Jim Koplik message board a presentation to the council committee.

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.

council contracts
Members of Contracts Committee.

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.



  1. Does (HYA) need a Hold Harmless Agreement ??

    • 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.

    A release of liability is used in many different scenarios, such as sporting events. Organized trips, or other risky activities. This agreement dictates that (HYA) will not hold the City of Bridgeport responsible for thinks like personal injury, death, or loss of property.
    This should of been the first Item on this list of agreements.

        1. I’m breaking a few of his fingers if he doesn’t get us the 35- page contract and the name of the Senator and Congressman MGM has allegedly bought and paid for.

          1. Lennie, thanks for the link to the 35-page contract. I’m still waiting for the name of the Congressman and Senator. the freaking cricket sound is driving me crazy.

      1. Joel, at the public announcement of the amphitheater more than two months ago Saffan said he/Live Nation will cover at least 50 percent of $15 million renovations but will sit down with city officials to negotiate a cost-sharing partnership for the city-owned venue. He’s been consistent about the cost sharing.

        1. I understand that Lennie. I nor anyone should rush to paint Saffan as some sort of leach. He surely saw that there was a path to invest or put down less money. The City or Joe Ganim needed some kind of major E.D. project to point to in his effort to gain support in his campaign for Ct, Gov. Over Twenty years ago, investors made a pitch to build the Stadium and bring in a baseball team to Bridgeport. They wanted to cover all the cost and simply needed the City’s blessing (approval). They were practically told to “Get the Fuck out of here”, just like a few bloggers (no names) did to Steven Auerbach. I don’t miss Steven, I have him as a fb friend. Yesterday, I commented on one of his posts which triggered a comment from Maria Pereira. I quickly shut her up with her own words. To every one, careful with the words you choose.

    1. I examined the contract. I’m more concerned with what is not on the contract than what is on it, especially huge revenue generating and some potential expenditure items not mentioned in the contract. Naming Rights to the amphitheater is one. Lets take the Arena for an example. The Arena opened around 2001. In 2011, ten (10) years after opening and the arrival of Howard Saffan, someone, somehow managed to convince Webster Bank to buy the naming rights to the Arena at Harbor Yard for $3.5 Million for a period of ten years of which 4 remains. Naming right is the same thing as Advertising Rights which according to the contract the City is giving it all away to HYA, LLC. I dare to say that the value here alone is over $10 million per year. A company called Template handled the negotiation for the City with Webster Bank. Lennie, is Template still around or working for the City? Here is an insight as to how it works:

      Another item that comes to mind is not a revenue but, an expense that if it’s covered by the City, not HYA, LLC, it will cost the City a chunk of cash–WIFI or wireless service to the Amphitheater. I’m not all against Amphitheater concept but, if all stays the same in regards to the contract and the amount of money the city shall get and put out, I’ll name it The Joel Gonzalez Armpit Theater at Harbor Yard.

  2. The City has owned property and leased to operators that has provided athletic, entertainment, and parking facility to patrons. The property itself has suffered at one or more times from maintenance issues (that get larger, perhaps, the longer they are ignored?) and that become issues that end up slowing down or eliminating revenue flows to the City.

    Has the City learned from such experiences?
    The BlueFish leave town and Ken Flatto has to make up for the aggressive play of the previous Finance Director in accruing two years of rental payments that were never received.
    Maintenance: Will there be a semi-annual walk around inspection/review of the facility to determine the state of the structure and who will handle and by when?? To eliminate arguments later about size of expense?
    If we are in litigation or serious disagreement already with a party in the Arena, why are we rushing an agreement with them again as a party to an added agreement where they are an important party?
    Where will base rent? Additional rents based on programing? And maintenance fund reserve? Be recorded for public knowledge month in and month out (especially the City Council)? When the buzz is off the contract and we are operating under it, the failure of revenue to the City should be one of the first observable signs that something is amiss. Why not keep that out front to protect the innocent taxpayers? Time will tell.

  3. Jimfox, did you read this part?

    “Here’s the executive summary presented to the Contracts Committee:”

    In other words, the Contracts Committee voted for a major contract of which they only viewed a summary. The devil is in the details.
    Next is the Public Hearing on a summary of a major contract. There’s no need for a release of liability or $100 million insurance policy. It’s not like there’s the potential of a crazed white man shooting down at concert goers with a dozen AK 47 from the People’s Bank Tower. That will never happen in America, let alone in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

    Will you rest easier if I assure you that I don’t see any mention of a subject/item that I’m sure can generate over $9 million in revenue for the city during a period of at least 15 years? I’d put that in writing just to be clear.

  4. I am sorry but I am still not convinced that there is an absolute line between Saffan and Live Nation. Of course,the CC puppets don’t care and don’t get it. From what I have read,the main agreement is between Saffan and City of Bridgeport. The Live Nation agreement/”contract” only seems to between Saffan and Live Nation and Bridgeport is not part of that agreement/contract. How will Saffan raise his dollars as part of this deal? Everything is still ambiguous and unclear and not made public. I can only imagine Anthony Paoletto jumping up and down with his pom’poms celebrating this deal. He is a clueless teenager.

    1. Frank, Saffan announced last night no bank is involved. Saffan and Live Nation are financing this together. It’s not often that the private sector invests $7.5 million in a facility owned by a municipality. It was interesting last night that not one City Council challenger took the time to attend this meeting. Several council members had a number of questions last night that goes to heart of your concerns. They were addressed. You had an opportunity last night to ask both Saffan and Koplik questions. They were very accessible. I understand your skepticism, but we’re talking about Saffan, highly experienced at managing entertainment venues and Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in America, joining forces. There’s a public hearing Monday at 5:30.

      1. Thank you,Lennie,BUt there is no alloted time for Public speaking at a subcommittee hearing. Plus,part of the meeting went into executive session away from any and all public eyes. It has become painfully obvious. Attending Full CC meetings and CC sub-committee hearing is a waste of time under the present rules and regime and the only “benefit” is that CC reps and the Mayor can see citizens/interested parties sitting in the CC chambers. Beyond that,it is useless.MY QUESTION IS;IS THERE A DIRECT CONTRACT BETWEEN LIVE NATION AND THE CITY OF BRIDGEPORT. That is either a yes or no. See you Monday!!!!!!!!

        1. Frank, the agreement is between the city and Harbor Yard Amphitheater, LLC which, according to the contract “has entered into a contractual, strategic relationship with Live Nation, a Fortune 300 company and the world’s leading concert promoter of live music events and festivals…” As for the executive session Saffan and Koplik were not part of that. If you cared that much you would have shown up to share your concerns with Saffan and Koplik. They’d have answered your questions.

          1. Lennie,I’ve gone to sub-committee hearings. The chairperson goes around and asks”Who are You?” If you are not a central part of the subcommittee hearing,you are directly told that you have no right to speak. PERIOD

          2. Frank, we’re not talking about the public’s right to speak. If it was that important you could have shown up to City Hall and approached Saffan and Koplik on your own. No one would have stopped you. They would choose to answer your questions or not. They were both very accessible to the public.

          3. It’s a question of clarity and,putting it into the vernacular
            ,putting your money where your mouth is. Based on what I have read at 5:40 pm 10/26/2017,I don’t see Live Nation making a guaranteed financial commitment.

          4. Another problem is that Saffan and Koplik are morphing into one indistinguishable entity. Specific words in contracts make a difference

      2. Saying that no bank is involved is not necessarily a good or bad thing thing. If the parties involved can produce the 7.5 million dollars,that is all great. Last night was nothing but a promise. No money was deposited anywhere.

    2. Frank Gyure, what is so hard to understand about two businessmen forming a business partnership and entering into a contract agreement with a municipality?

      Let me clear things up a little for you. First, go back to the top of the commentary and take a good look at the picture of the partners mentioned. The man in front (the one that looks closer to you in the picture) or on the left side, is Howard Saffan who used to manage (NOT OWN) Webster Bank Arena and the Nassau Coliseum before that. Before we continue, take a good look at the picture again. You see that woman in the middle of both men? NO, she is not the midget, conjoined sister of Howard Saffan. It’s an optical illusion, she is standing further away from Saffan and Koplic and may be their assistant, not a third partner. Still following me Frank? Now the man with the white hair is not The Bridgeport Kid, he looks sober and much better looking than the kid. No, he is not Jimfox either but, I understand why they can be confused. He is Jim Koplic and business partner of Howard Saffan. I highly doubt that Jim Koplic would form a partnership with Howard Saffan if there was a possibility that Saffan was broker than Frank Gyure. If you ask some people I know that question. Their answer would be: None of your fucking business. These guys aren’t bums who just walked in from the street. Lennie is playing nice when he says that he understands your skepticism. You’re skeptic about everything having to do anything with Joe Ganim. In retrospect, I’d bet that Howard Saffan will get his part of the money from Bridgeport Polic Chief A.J Perez and Police Union President Chuck Paris.

      1. BTW,Joe Ganim “promised” us no more taxes and less crime(by giving millions to Chuck Paris and the BPU). So,I should reverently kneel and believe every flucking word that comes out of Joe Ganim’s mouth.

        1. Joel,I ‘ll be there with you and Lennie at the Grand Opening of the Bridgeport Amphitheater and I will actually buy and pay for tickets to the first concert although some members of City Government are promised free tickets.

        1. Frank Gyure, you wouldn’t recognize an insinuation if your life depended on it. Fuck insinuations, look for admissions or anything clos to a confession that can support any suspission of wrong doing or skepticism in your part.

          Allow to demonstrate what I mean. You posted this comment: Frank Gyure // Oct 26, 2017 at 9:54 pm

          Joel Gonzalez,,see you at the John Mayer Concert.

          It’s obvious to me that you and all OIB readers read this part from Lennie Grimaldi: “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.”

          Read this part: “a conversation, he says, he’ll have with the guitar wizard once the full council approves the contract.”

          Question to Lennie: How does Jim Koplic know that the council will approve the contract?

          Let me try this a different way. Lennie Grimaldi asked you this:
          So when the amphitheater is built, will you eat crow?

          I ask Lennie Grimaldi: Lennie, how you know that the amphitheater will be built? If you know it will be built, then you know that the council will approve the contract.

          1. Joel, I hope the council approves it. So does Koplik but he’s not putting cart before the horse. If this current council does not approve it, a whole bunch of them who say they are supporting it will have changed their minds.

          2. I hope the council approves it too. You need make up for the OIB ads loss due to the pending move of the Bluefish to warmer waters.

          3. Lennie and Joel,

            Even if this CC or the next approves the deal it is a long way from happening. The Hockey team has promised legal action. That could well bung up the process in litigation for years.

  5. Lennie, I see from you comments that you support this going forward. I commented before that Live Nation is making ZERO investment in Bridgeport and this deal does not involved them or their signature.

    My point has always been that this deal has been pushed by shameless name dropping of a Major fortune 300 company who can’t find BPT on a map. It is not their deal. The deal between Live Nation and this proposed ampitheathre is NO different than the same deal that has existed between the ARENA and Live Nation, which is how Saffan got friendly with Koplik in the first place.

    So let just be real with the people and stop using “Live Nation” to describe this deal. That’s like me selling “NATHAN’S HOT DOGS” from my restaurant and acting like Nathans decided to open a up a location downtown and it’s NATHAN’s name on the marquee. It’s a shameless name grab.

    That said I am more concerned with committing $7.5 Million with no idea where it well come from, and the asinine statement that this amphitheater is going to contribute $50 Million annually to the surrounding area. They obviously were including towns like Trumbull and Fairfield where Bpt’s Finest traffic plan shuttles people away from downtown sometimes even blocking traffic flow through downtown main street like they did the NCAA women’s tourney. That’s the real story here.

  6. I’m at s loss to the reluctance to support this endeavor. People baseball is gone and not coming back. That ship has sailed and Bridgeport has to move forward. I can remember when the Webster arena was proposed there was an abundance of opposition with probably some of the very same people that are in opposition of the amphitheatre saying why is Bridgeport opening up an arena when New Haven has closed theirs and the Hartford colosseum is struggling. Yet people Bridgeport in it’s infinite wisdom went ahead and now we have a successful venue that brings in money, but more importantly is an asset to the city.

    Let me say this one more time, baseball in Bridgeport is a thing of the past and Bridgeport needs to move forward. I know most of you (us) don’t give a damn or trust Joe Ganim, but with that being said not everything he has said or will do is bad for the city just because we don’t like or trust him. This amphitheater may prove to be another Webster arena, not wanted at first, but later proves to be an asset to the city.

    1. Donald Day, I somewhat agree with you. Stop that damned ship! Let’s not rush to bury baseball in Bridgeport or erase any signs of it’s past. I was one of the City Councilmen representing the Harbor Yard section. I had many doubts and concerns before a shovel was put to the ground. I eventually voted in favor of the Baseball stadium project. I attended only the Grand Opening. The only presence or sign of me (Joel Gonzalez) is on a bronze plaque outside near the entrance. I believe it was Dennis Murphy who pitched (no pun intended) that idea perhaps as a conciliation prize or to secure more council support. A few years later, I stopped by that area of the stadium and to my surprise, someone had put a stockade fence and covered the view of plaque. So much for respect! That plaque is a piece of Bridgeport History, it has my name as well of others like Joe Ganim, Bill Finch, The late Pat Crossin, etc. The day that plaque was covered, the Blue Fish was dead.

      What is the City of Bridgeport (the “City”) Harbor Yard Amphitheater, LLC (“HYA”) plan to preserve, replace, or move the plaque?

  7. I truly believe that this will turn out to be a really good venue. Bridgeport is really focusing on being the entertainment capital of CT. this , the Casino, Comedy club, The renovations of the POLI,and Majestic….But I wonder, couldn’t the school system benefit from such attention..It is one of the worst school system and a total embarrassment to the state…..Where is and will they ever be such attention toward the school system?????????????

    1. “Where is and will they ever be such attention toward the school system?????????????”

      WTF, what just came out of left-field from the Coach?
      “It is one of the worst school system and a total embarrassment to the state.”

      This is the kind of attention YOU bring to our school system? I guess every player in every team you’ve coached, hit home runs every time they got to bat on the first pitch. Every pitcher in your team throw nothing but strikes, pitch nothing but no- hitters.

      Like in sports, many students excel or perform better than others. While Bridgeport’s school system has bad problems, it has its’ success and good students. Not all score or perform like your players do all the time. Attention? Hmmm, if we can get parents and students–most of the poorly performing/behaving ones–to simply pay attention to the lessons and instructions in classes, many will pay attention to the improvement in our school system.

  8. I attended the meeting. I was impressed that Saffan has a history here having owned and managed Bishop Manufacturing on Knowlton Street, so I think he is vested here and knows his way around the proverbial block.
    I would ask that financial incentives be applied from the developer to make high priced acts more available to neighborhood blue collar people in Bridgeport, as had Ken Hayes for Bridgeport residents with the Vibes.
    Hayes also created a model that nurtured local music talent, education and promotion of things like School of Rock, Neighborhood Studios of Bridgeport, Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra, etc.
    I also liked their ideas to tear down walls between downtown and the arena area. Something creative under the highway ala the small craftshop houses at Captains Cove- that’s an idea- get Kaye Williams involved! Also a connection to the South End and Seaside Park I’m glad they mentioned. The Main Street RR underpass has been sealed up, no connection to the ferry. How about a bike path from the Amphitheater to Seaside under the other abandoned RR underpass through the Ferry?

  9. This is also a good start. The other plans are just pipe dreams. This may prime the proverbial pump and is shovel-ready ,so to speak.
    As the tide rises so do all the ships in the harbor.

  10. We need to see a contract signed by “LIVE Nation.”Koplik is just an employee of LIve Nation..nothing more nothing less. Is Koplik and Saffan providing their own personal funds for HYI Inc. Where is the contract that says LIve Nation Corporate is signing on to this deal.Where is the contract for HYI???

  11. Obviously.The contracts subcommitte and the full CC did not seek independent advice concerning this contract and the whole situation. They just sat there with mouths agape thinking of sitting in the reserved box seats.

  12. Now all anyone interested has to do is copy this: Harbor Yard Amphitheater, LLC. Then go the to the link above and paste it on “search by name.” Pay attention to where it says ‘Reserved.’

    Frank Gyure, you are desperate looking for a smoking gun. I can provide you with one. Come to my house, I have a nail gun. I’d be more than happy to nail your lips shut; nail all your fingers to a board. Then I’ll show you the smoke that comes out the gun and you can go home and sit on your porch pretending to by a Holloween decoration. Local Eyes will visit and leave Black Rock pleased with the display.

  13. I have two important questions:

    1, What is the proposed benefit to the city? 
    2, What economic impact will this facility have in the downtown area?


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