Saffan Touts ‘Dream Come True’ For Amphitheater–Koplik: City To Become Music Center Of Fairfield County

Declaring it Bridgeport’s emergence as the center of music entertainment in Fairfield County, Connecticut’s top concert promoter Jim Koplik of Live Nation and SportsCenter of Connecticut, leader Howard Saffan joined Mayor Joe Ganim Thursday afternoon on McLevy Green Downtown to announce a partnership to transform the Ballpark at Harbor Yard into a $15 million weather-proof boutique amphitheater seating upwards of 8,000 for a six-month annual season projected to start spring of 2019.

Saffan, Koplik
Concert promoter Jim Koplik. At left Howard Saffan.

“This is a dream come true,” announced Saffan, a big Bridgeport booster who served for 10 years as president of the Sound Tigers professional hockey team that’s the anchor tenant of the Webster Bank Arena. Saffan projected the amphitheater economic impact spinoff for the city at $50 million a year, the “gateway to the South End” creating 1,250 short-term jobs and hundreds of positions during the warm-weather season. He said he will hire all local vendors. The unique feature of the amphitheater, he said, is a sturdy tent-like tensile roof to accommodate patrons irrespective of weather.

Rendering of amphitheater.

Saffan and Koplik in recent years have discussed Bridgeport as a fit for an amphitheater given its proximity and highway access. They are contemplating the seating size between 6,500 and 8,000. The ballpark capacity is 5,300.

The city, which owns the ballpark, issued a request for proposals several months ago. Attendance-struggling Bluefish ownership was one of three entities that responded. Mayor Joe Ganim said the 20-year-old ballpark requires upwards of $20 million in improvements, part of the equation in selecting the amphitheater proposal to “Turn the page for an exciting change as a premiere venue bringing in unbelievable entertainment.”

The facility will have 21 luxury suites, three VIP lounges, outdoor barbecue area, hosting 50-75 annual events including concerts, festivals, community events and family shows.

Ganim, Saffan
Howard Saffan, left, with Mayor Joe Ganim.

Koplik, who has promoted concerts in Connecticut for four decades said the amphitheater will be a one-of-a-kind, weather-proof venue taking advantage of the popular trend of summer concerts. As for concerns expressed by arena officials, Koplik emphasized that the amphitheater and the adjacent arena are completely different concert markets that pose no competition issues. Koplik has also booked concerts at the arena. He said the amphitheater will put Bridgeport on the map for concerts, a regular stop for summer tours for acts such as Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp and Goo Goo Dolls. He added 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. The arena, he said, has booked only a few summer concerts in recent years. He added that many cities have both a larger arena and separate amphitheater setting that accommodate the different concert markets.

Blue Hills Pavilion
Blue Hills Pavilion in Boston.

Koplik said the closest likeness to the proposed amphitheater is the Blue Hills Pavilion in Boston.

Ganim said the ballpark is in a state of disrepair and looks forward to the improvements that come with the new amphitheater. He had kind words for Bluefish ownership but added it was time to turn the page that he expects to have a significantly higher economic impact for the city. The city receives more than $100,000 a year from the Bluefish.

Saffan said his company 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. The city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development and the City Attorney’s office will craft a leasing agreement with Saffan.

As for arena officials barking about the amphitheater presence, Ganim said the city is in court battling over fees owed the city. “I hope they see the bigger picture.”



  1. Lawsuit. Plain and simple.
    No competition clause.
    The ball park is right next door.
    Similar seating.
    Enclosed for inclement weather
    Even a blind man can see through this.

  2. Saffan projected the amphitheater economic spin off impact for the city at $50 million a year. C’mon man you know well as I that the city isn’t going to reap $50 million a year from this venue even if they had a show/concert every week for a year.

    See, there llies the problem, LIES. You don’t have to bullshit the public to get them on-board with this proposal like you are a snake oil salesman pitching a cure all medicine. Hyperbole or Lies, you make the call.

    1. $50,000,000.00 is an estimate, Donald. If the city is prepared, local merchants, tavern keepers, restaurateurs, etc., will reap the rewards. Gathering of the Vibes didn’t really benefit the city as a whole. Ken Hays reaped the psychedelic coin, not many others. He still owes the city  for police overtime. It was a self-contained universe. Food, booze, water and illicit drugs were available at Seaside Park.

      People attending concerts at the proposed amphitheater will be looking to eat, drink and be merry before and after the show. 

      1. Yo D, I’ve attended many events at the arena and my wife and I always go to Ralph & Ritchie’s for dinner prior to said event and we don’t see a lot of people there that are attending said event. I believe that if you talk to the downtown business owners they will tell you the same thing.

  3. “The music center of Fairfield County?” Wow! That is something for the city to aspire to. Where are the marketing study and the revenue projections.

  4. This is a joke. Saffan is talking about a “possible dozen-give or take- summer concerts.” Even Lennie Grimaldi got fooled by this snowjob. With the Webster Arena sitting right next to it empty most of the time.

      1. EIGHT INTERJECTIONS from Mr.Grimaldi..and counting. Any basic person attending any type of architectural/design school..First year,mind you) would know that this “so-called design” could accommodate both the Bluefish and the Ganim-Koplik-Saffan pipedream. This show that all of this is pure baloney.

    1. Once Ganims wish to be governor goes up in flames ALL of this will go up in flames and disappear. This Harboryard pipe-scheme. The Poli-Majestic_savoy Hotel will ALL disappear after “Governor” Ganim goes down the tubes. all one has to do is to tell the rest of Connecticut voters about a 29% Property tax increase and Ganim will be a leper. Ganim does not even want to be Mayor of Bridgeport. Ganim hates being Mayor of Bridgeport. Ganim will not even seek re-election in 2019. Who is kidding who-here on OIB?

  5. This isn’t about the Bluefish. It is about a half baked proposal which doesn’t pass the smell test. $50 million in economic impact a year based on 29 dates? I doubt it. Where is the study that proves that possible? Where is the marketing study that shows that this facility won’t cannibalize other local venues. How much is this game going to cost Bridgeport beleaguered taxpayers? They don’t even have a final funding plan. Like I said it’s half-baked at best.

    1. Phil, you want two guys in the private sector to produce for your sign off a marketing study that passes the smell test. Everywhere Koplik has gone in this state he has produced success. But, you know more about concert promotion success than Koplik, right? What are your marketing credentials?

      1. Lennie,
        First, it’s not a question of what I want to see. It’s a question of what the City, the Mayor, OPED and the Council should be demanding from developers seeking city funding and the use of city facilities.
        I have never suggested that I know more about concert promotion than Jim Koplik does. His record speaks for itself.
        However, I do have extensive experience with due diligence reviews of development projects such as this one.
        The questions about this project abound.
        COST: According to your article the developers are committed to pay at least half of the estimated $15million cost of the improvements. The basis for that estimated is unknown, but let’s assume that it is accurate (a fact which should be independently verified).
        Your article also reports that the developers “will sit down with city officials to negotiate a cost-sharing partnership for the city-owned venue.”
        In other words the Mayor doesn’t know how much the proposal he is supporting will cost Bridgeport taxpayers. Going ahead on that basis is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.
        ECONOMIC IMPACT: What do independent experts, who have no stake in the project, estimate its economic impact will be? How does that compare with the current return?
        MARKETING: There are two primary questions. First is there sufficient demand to support the facility. No, the City should not simply accept the estimates of the developers. Prudence demands independent confirmation. Second, the City already has two concert venues (the Arena and the Klein) and a third which may result from the downtown Theater redevelopment. How will this new venue impact them.
        EMPLOYMENT: How many people will the new venue employ? How many days a year? How does that compare to the current figures?
        LOCATION: As anyone has gone to a Bluefish game knows, AMTRAK and Metro North trains frequently speed by, sometimes with horns blowing. That’s not a big deal at a baseball game. I have to think that a concert is another natter entirely, especially for the kind of artists the developers are talking about.
        FACILITIES: I believe the capacity of the Ballpark is a little over 5,000 people. Estimates of the capacity of the music facility have run as high as 8,000. Are there adequate parking and other facilities to support that many people?
        These are just a few of the dozens of unanswered questions about this project.
        History suggest that, in the weeks ahead, the members of the City Council will under intense pressure to approve the project. What they do (and how they do it) will tell voters a lot about their priorities and their independence.

        1. Phil, most of your questions involve the private sector willingness to do this. Not the city. You make it sound like Koplik and Saffan are babes in the woods with their first crack at doing this. But you, of course, know better, with zero experience running an entertainment center. The city owns the facility. The current occupant tenant which on the whole has been good for the city has run its course. Try as they may with great intentions the Fish management cannot recapture the magic that made the Fish the talk of the town 1998-2000. Everything has a life span. The city has major repairs to make to the venue. Do you think the Bluefish are willing to cover half the improvements needed to upgrade the venue? Of course not. I could easily respond to your questions one by one. Some are preposterous. Let me take one example, adequate parking? The adjacent arena, owned by the city, can hold upwards of 10,000 seats. What’s the parking issue? Under your specifications the city should do an RFP, then, in the dark negotiate a deal and then announce to the world everything is ducky. Under that scenario you’d be screaming bloody murder because the people had no time to vet the process. Phil, you’re wonderful at charter revision and sharing government policy positions. But, if left up to you – with zero marketing and economic development experience – and Bob Walsh, and all the other myopic geniuses in the city, the ballpark craters into tumbleweeds. And then you’d be screaming even louder…with no viable solutions.

          1. Lennie,
            No economic development experience? FYI, after I worked in Bridgeport I spent eleven and a half years working on major economic development projects for the State of Connecticut. The questions I asked (and many more)are the same ones that any responsible public entity asks before entering into a development agreement. If they weren’t asked during the RFP process they should have been. The bottom line is simple. What kind of due diligence did the city do? Or did it just take the word of the developers?
            Cheer up. Chances are that the Mayor will find enough sheep to rubber stamp this deal. We’ll see.

  6. *** More political B/S & pay to play wasted money on a wonderful idea that does not seem to have the past history (arts & entertainment) successful examples, to back up a boast $ number of 50.million a year? Theres never enough acts on a yearly basis at the Klien, Webster Arena, Bijoun, Cabarre Theater, Playhouse on the Green, Seaside Park Band-Shell, etc… So, 3 out of 4 seasons is going to produce the acts, the fans, the city O.T, and the money to get the ball rolling to end-up with plus earnings at the end of the year to get ready for the following year? Notice, I did not mention, paying employees, utilities, taxes, and insurance’s needed in general. Downtown Bpt. Becomes a Ghost-Town after 6pm and don’t forget to feed the parking meters! ***

  7. So we will have major lawsuit. Great answer.
    The area a sues the city of Bridgeport for violating the noncompetition clause and seeks a temporary injunction from proceeding. They will probably grant the temporary because there is a good chance that they will prevail.
    The city counter sue for damages.
    Nothing gets done for several years and no one gets use of the ballpark. EXCELLENT IDEA!!!

  8. Lennie
    I’ll promote concerts. They have to pay and will get free use of the ball park under some formula that says they won’t pay for the next ten years. You can pay me how or pay me later. But if he is such a wonderful businessman one thing is sure. YOU AKA US WILL PAY HIM FOR SURE.

  9. Once Ganims wish to be governor goes up in flames ALL of this will go up in flames and disappear. This Harboryard pipe-scheme. The Poli-Majestic_savoy Hotel will ALL disappear after “Governor” Ganim goes down the tubes. all one has to do is to tell the rest of Connecticut voters about a 29% Property tax increase and Ganim will be a leper. Ganim does not even want to be Mayor of Bridgeport. Ganim hates being Mayor of Bridgeport. Ganim will not even seek re-election in 2019. Who is kidding who-here on OIB?

    1. Saffan and Koplik are old gheezers who will never ever see any profit on this scheme as presented. Two dozen hopeful concerts within 365 days a yeear with an arena-mostly empty- right next to it. This is a joke. If it is not,it is a recipe for bankruptcy for the Saffan/Koplik dream/nightmare.

    1. Troll, every single day I financially support Bridgeport in some fashion. So do a whole bunch of suburbanites. You’d be thrilled not to pay taxes in Bridgeport, right? You want out. But you’re the genius that knows everything.

  10. Why did Lennie Grimaldi lose his impartiality and get hot and heavy and so defensive about this scheme? Let’s review TWO years of OIB postings and I doubt that you will find any discussion that has Seven interjections from Mr. Grimaldi.

    1. Because guys like you make up stories, don’t have your facts straight and have no counter solutions. It’s guys like you who promised Bass Pro Shops would never happen. My impartiality? OIB, always biased and always fair.

        1. Let me correct your spelling..myopes or miopes. Now go please sit down in your chair next to your desk.And please spell myopes/miopes 100 times or you will get spanked.

      1. There is a difference between solutions and pipe dreams. There is a difference between running for Governor of Connecticut and throwing out all types of pipedreams and seeing what sticks on the wall and going out and rebuilding the delapidated houses and streets and schools of 90% of Bridgeport. There really is a difference here.

  11. Go for Lennie! Don’t let Frank and Bob, or should I say, Beavis and Butthead push you around. These two whiners have perennial panties in bunch syndrome. Sure, let the stadium sit around, abandoned like a an old mall. That makes a lot sense. What’s your ideas for the ballpark geniuses?

  12. Again. This is the cart before the horse… Did anyone check on the long-term local and regional demographic trends in regard to where sufficient patronage will be derived to allow this new super-venue and its companion super-theater complex a few blocks away?! Did someone forget that Connecticut is hemorrhaging jobs and corporate tax-based much faster than it can be replaced? The cities of Connecticut — including Bridgeport are all hovering near bankruptcy in a state that is also hovering near bankruptcy in a country that is rudderless and in the middle of a political hurricane…
    These “plans” are anything but. What we are seeing in Bridgeport development news is wild speculation… We heard similar hype about the ball park and arena 20 years ago — when our state, local, and regional prospects were much better and much more solid.
    Even a casino green-light for Bridgeport couldn’t justify these projects for this region…
    Bridgeport is being targeted as sucker location for land-flippers and shysters looking for us to leverage tax-payer for them that they won’t have pay back… Economic-development Ponzi schemes…
    Blue Hills Pavilion is in BOSTON. I don’t see any power plants, highway overpasses, or rail-lines in the immediate vicinity of Blue Hills Pavilion… And it is BOSTON…
    Bridgeport is in the middle of a super-resurgence of gang-related violence related to all manner of criminal entrepreneurship. A gang tracked down and shot a victim in Captain’s Cove just a couple of weeks. We had two gang-related shooting in the middle of “better” residential neighborhoods in the past several days, and one on the venerable, downtown, McClevy Green just a few weeks ago…
    No one is going to pour good money after bad on ill-conceived projects in Bridgeport except for the shysters representing us in city government who are holding the tax-payer check-book…
    Before we try to reconstruct our entertainment base, we need to put money in local pockets — to the tune of tens of thousands of jobs… I’ve heard that we can accommodate training for advanced manufacturing jobs in Connecticut. We should be targeting and recruiting advanced manufacturing and related companies as our economic development priority (e.g., green-alternative-energy equipment manufacturing) — not chasing grandiose bs projects that are just fantasy intended to fleece tax payers/voters… We’ve been down this road to nowhere before… How easily some of us forget…
    Which way to the egress?!

  13. Listen,at this point,what is the city supposed to do?,the stadium needs a massive renovation,the Bluefish average what,200 a night??’s time for a change..
    But here’s something thta got my attention today..In the first article announcing the plan on August 8th,this was said by Saffan..
    “Saffan announced Live Nation and his company will pay for the renovations transforming the 5,300-seat venue into a warm-weather amphitheater.”
    Now fast forward to today and we get this..
    “Saffan said his company 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.”
    So are we to assume,we are on the hook for $7.5 million for renovations??..exactly where does that money come from?,Bpt is teetering on the brink as it is…

    1. Bridgeport is not on the brink. Bridgeport is BANKRUPT. We are already bonding for operating expenses. The State can no longer bankroll Bridgeport Democratic Votes. The Federal Government(aka Donald Trump and HUD Ben Carson) will not help urban areas until the next Presidential Election[2020]. Figure that out.

  14. The arena is empty most of the summer so why do they think the outdoor venue is going to any better.

    Why doesn’t the arena host concerts in the summer now?

    1. It’s called capitalism. No demand equals no supply. There is no demand for summertime concerts at Webster Arena yet Joey and Lennie wants us to believe that this sparkling new amphitheater headed up by two geezers(who are also waiting for City of Bridgeport dollars) will bring thousands and thousands of people magically into this amphitheater next to an empty arena. I think I remember a story about lemmings…………..

  15. OMG I have to just say this is a fantastic proposal. The Bluefish have been struggling for over a decade. What is on this blog today and most days is the reason why Bridgeport continues to fail- these people do not support any venues. NONE! ZERO! The whine. A year ago they were killing Finch and loving Ganim. Finally, Ganim has brought his proposals to the table to the tune of 415 million and all the typical naysayers are killing Ganim and his desire to be Governor. Bridgeport would be the biggest beneficiary if Ganim went to Hartford. Of course that is my opinion. These 2 proposals the Majestic and Ballpark as well as the new housing units will help local business succeed. I am pleased that the Council is getting involved. They should be extremely excited that development is happening while they are in office. Happening simultaneously with Steelepoint. It is so appalling to read these negative posts hoping for the failure of Joe Ganim. This news is of course out all over the state. It is brilliant Marketing. The problem is that people can not stand that it makes Ganim look good. Seriously??? He is the Mayor of the largest city in the state. Lets face the facts folks, until economic , bricks and mortar development is happening simultaneouly around the city, Bridgeport will continue the tax increases under every administration. How much longer can Bridgeport bear the brunt of every special interest group. Do these proposals need a rally? I am certain they could get them. People want to see the Theaters come back to life. People want to see 19 story towers downtown with housing and lights at night. People want to feel safe. The people in every corner of this city want to see life and attractions in this city. These 2 proposals are homeruns. For those obstructionists , well there will always be obstructionists. Mayor Ganim would be wise to just over look them. We are the next Stamford. We areb Fairfield County , we have always created affordable hoising all over the city. We have taken care of every social service. Now the time has come to take the burden off of the home owner. Enough of this negative crap.

    Bob Walsh still can’t stand that Steelepointe has come into fruition. Leaving the future of this city in the hands of people with this negative view will keep us oppressed and taxed. Gentrification is not a bad word. This city needs some serious Gentrification. We need less slum lords and more homeowners. We are the Park City. It’s time Bridgeport becomes a magnet for developers and young families.

  16. Steve, look up Urban Dictionary and the meaning of  Gentrification:

    When “urban renewal” of lower class neighbourhoods with condos attracts yuppie tenants, driving up rents and driving out long time, lower income residents. It often begins with influxes of local artists looking for a cheap place to live, giving the neighbourhood a bohemian flair. This hip reputation attracts yuppies who want to live in such an atmosphere, driving out the lower income artists and lower income residents, often ethnic/racial minorities, changing the social character of the neighbourhood.

    It also involves the “yuppification” of local businesses; shops catering to yuppie tastes like sushi resaturants, Starbucks, etc… come to replace local businesses displaced by higher rents.

    Steve, can you tell me where in America that the black community made out good from Gentrification?

  17. Hey Lennie,
    You back in the game???
    Seems like you are very, very vested in thew Koplik and Saffan angle?
    People say one thing and you twist it to mean another.
    I never said that it would not work, unfortunately, there is a non-compete clause on the books.
    Does not matter if Koplik and Saffan are competent or not. What matters is can they legal do it.
    Just because it is cheaper to produce shows at Harbor Yard doesn’t mean they can throw out the contract.

    1. Back in the game? Until Thursday I hadn’t chatted with Koplik for 20 years. All you do Troll is root for the city to fail. You’re the guy who predicted Bass Pro Shops would never happen, but now that it’s there you still whine and complain. And then you trash Marilyn Moore for having the audacity to support new jobs at Steel Pointe Harbor for the building trades.

      1. No Lennie. I don’t root for the city to fail but I don’t buy pie in the sky ideas that make no sense brought by the same person who floated the idea originally.

  18. Why doesn’t Joe go after the back taxes or rent that the Bluefish owe?
    Because it would get in the way of the the new pipe dream?
    Joe is just selling fluff. He doesn’t care if it happens or when.
    He’s got campaign to run and in. Don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

      1. What about it?
        I offered (Lennie doesn’t mention it) ways to make the Vibes more profitable and less risky but the “experienced” promoter whined about how he doesn’t make any money off of the deal.
        So the council was afraid that he would leave town.

  19. “a regular stop for summer tours for acts such as Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp and Goo Goo Dolls.”
    So lets see. john Mellencamp. Mohegan Sun arena. Goo Goo Dolla. Mohegan Sun arena. Steely Dan. Mohegan Sun areana. Bob Dylan. Harbor Years arena.
    As a matter of fact I saw Hall and Oates in concert in Bridgeport last year.
    Mohegan Sun is about the same size as Bridgeport Harbor Yards.
    But Bridgeport is a totally different venue.
    Nice try Lennie. We will save the ballpark at the risk of closing down the arena.

  20. Bobby, I don’t think this is a ballpark against the arena thing. While I think that $50 million dollar a year in revenue from this venue is grossly mischaracterized and even an outright lie, this venue is a better option than a ballpark that is not only is poorly received, but poorly attended.

    I can see this venue being used from late spring to early fall and the arena being used from late fall to early spring with both accommodating concerts and shows. Just because Mayor Ganim came up with the idea doesn’t arbitrarily make it a bad idea and its merits are worth serious consideration.

  21. Donald,
    Pay no attention to Lennie. He is just a shill.
    I did not say I was in favor of or opposed to the plan.
    All I said was there was a non-compete clause in the contract with the arena.
    Tell me how we are going to get rid of this first before going into accepting their RFP.
    What will that cost us? Giving up all claims to money owed and rewriting the contract? That too can be very expensive but Lennie doesn’t give a damn about that.

  22. Why don’t you asked The Three Blind mice? See picture at the beginning of the thread.
    Brantley, Herron and Smith!
    Maybe they can answer your questions or will they simply say we were told to.

  23. Council president McCarthy was interviewed on WICC a couple of days ago. He said the city council had not seen any details of the proposal yet.
    So why are members of the city council standing behind the mayor? Do they support the proposal? Have they seen something that has not been submitted the city council for review? Are they biased in favor of this proposal before they do extensive research prior to acting on it?
    Or, do they seriously think that anyone other than those of us who read OIB know (or care) who they are? Should we be impressed?
    Maybe they will be insisting that the contract include free tickets for city council members as Bob Curwen (with McCarthy’s support) did with the Gathering of the Vibes.

  24. Tom you’ve been around the block a few times over the years and by virtue of that fact you know that most city council persons will do what whatever the mayor tells them to do. For blind allegiance they get the nomination for their district, a job for a family member, friend or themselves and free tickets political sponsor events. Why you can’t buy or sell these people you can still rent their sorry assess.

    1. The old bond council will tell you that bonds lose their tax exempt status if they are solely to the benefit of one individual. So can we assume that they won’t be using any bonding to pay for the ball park.

  25. Lennie my dear friend, chill. You’re coming off like a frustrated blogger, or is it your intention to create some provocative discussion about another paper-project that will never come to fruition. I know this type of idea falls within your area of expertise, PR, but honey, you’re the master of OIB, unless you plan on doing both. With you advising, maybe I’d rethink my position of this paper-project, pipe dream.

  26. Lisa I will defend Lennie on your post. Lennie is right. This venue is not sustainable. A pipe dream is thinking the Bluefish can continue with on fans showing up to the games to support the team. Regardless of what’s on paper. The fact is the Bluefish has no economical benefit for the city and its league. It’s a rotting fish for both of them. Personally, like Lennie, I think the amphitheater is the best proposal for the city and Harbor Yard. Will it be? TWT

  27. The city says that the ballpark requires $20 million in renovations. But, the more extensive renovations for the music center will only cost $15 million. I’d love to hear how they explain that.

  28. All of us must be curious why Lennie got so involved in this conversation. Lennie Grimaldi,do you have any financial ties with this Saffan/Koplik group?


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