A standing-room-only crowd of live music lovers, musicians, civic leaders and community members attending the March 14 Irvine City Council session erupted into cheers when the council voted 5-0 to approve an interim amphitheater to replace Irvine Meadows.
A detailed staff report came out in favor of approval of the amphitheater plan as submitted by FivePoint and Live Nation Entertainment that calls for Live Nation to lease the concert venue site at the end of the remaining Marine Corps Air Station El Toro runways, just outside the Great Park boundaries, near the Irvine Transportation Center.
John Forsyte, CEO Pacific Symphony Orchestra, was one of many who rose to speak in favor of the amphitheater. Forsyte called the interim venue a “lynchpin to a bright future,” and promised to bring PSO musicians to Irvine to play “Hail to the Heroes” in honor of military veterans if the council approved the amphitheater. PSO has long had an outdoor classical music series at Irvine Meadows.
Other speakers included Ira Glasky, the president of the Irvine Unified School District board and Bryan Starr, vice president of the Orange County Business Council and a resident of Great Park Neighborhoods. Starr said he was looking forward to having “Jimmy Buffett play in my backyard,” referring to how convenient the amphitheater will be to his home.
Jo Ellen Chatham, a widely respected community leader and board member of Pacific Symphony was joined at the podium by Danielle Liu, a Crean Lutheran High School student and violinist who plays with the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra. Liu thrilled the crowd by playing a short burst of brilliance on her instrument.
Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilman Brad McGirr came to show South County support of the new venue, telling his councilmember colleagues that his first date with his wife was to see George Michael at Irvine Meadows (editor’s note: we were at that show, too).
Many of those at the session wore red “Save Live Music Irvine” t-shirts, including the overflow crowd watching on closed circuit TVs in other parts of City Hall. Workers who depended on their summer employment at Irvine Meadows for part of their annual income were out in force, represented by their labor leaders who spoke in favor of the proposed amphitheater.
After the speakers, most in the audience were anticipating approval of the amphitheater proposal, and the council members did not disappoint. All but Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott were enthusiastic in their support, with Schott expressing some misgivings about traffic at the 5 Freeway and Sand Canyon, despite the staff report showing much better access to the new venue than Irvine Meadows ever enjoyed. She also sought a 30-day deadline on infrastructure improvements in advance of the opening show at the new venue, an additional condition that was met with a collective shrug by the council, deemed arbitrary and not added to the approved measure.
“The Irvine City Council is continuing a tradition that has brought hundreds of thousands of people together for more than three decades in our city,” said Mayor Donald Wagner in a statement released after the vote. “In doing so, we recognize the enormous economic engine that live music fuels in Irvine and beyond, and the cultural importance of live music as part of Orange County’s identity. FivePoint and Live Nation’s proposal enables us to collectively develop recreational, cultural and educational opportunities for the enjoyment of Orange County residents and visitors.”
The unanimous vote, with no speakers in opposition, was called “a win for all live music lovers and especially the nearly 35,000 fans who offered their voices to the Save Live Music Irvine initiative,” by Emile Haddad, chairman and CEO of FivePoint. “The cornerstone of how we build communities is connectivity. We believe what makes communities great is diversity and inclusivity. I don’t believe there is a better place to find that than a live music venue and that’s why this decision is important. We’re excited because when you add music to sports, education, jobs and housing you enhance the experience for everyone and that’s how a community is built.
“I only hope that soon we will be celebrating the approval of the permanent amphitheater at the Great Park to insure live music in Irvine continues for many generations to come,” Haddad said.
During the session, Councilmember Shea said that she “wants to make sure we have a permanent home” for live music in Irvine.
Councilmember Jeff Lalloway also urged continued progress toward a permanent amphitheater in the Cultural Terrace area of the Great Park, saying it should be “the best damn amphitheater in the world.”
Live Nation hasn’t given any hints about what acts might play at the interim Irvine amphitheater when it opens later in the summer. But that doesn’t stop speculation about what a first season at the new venue might look like. Many tours and summer dates have yet to be announced. Still, by looking at this season’s schedules at the Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theater, the Forum and other SoCal venues, we’ve come up with a few possibilities of acts we might see in Irvine later this summer and fall.
August: Lady Gaga, Foreigner/Cheap Trick, Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock, Deep Purple/Alice Cooper
Yo Yo Ma
Fleet Foxes/Beach House
Zac Brown Band
Fun facts about the interim amphitheater
- The interim amphitheater will feature 35 concerts per year, with most on weekends, between June and October. There will be fewer shows in 2017 because the opening likely won’t occur until midway or later through the summer concert season. Concerts will typically start at 7:30 p.m. Door/gates to the public are expected to open 90 minutes prior to the start of the performance, and the parking lot will open one hour prior to the opening of the door/gates to the facility. Concerts will be required to end by 11 p.m.
- The proposed amphitheater will include both standing and seating areas, including features such as: 116,000 square feet of festival grounds, 38,000 square feet of bleacher seating, 29,000 square feet of turf seating, 3,000 square feet of box seating, and 23,500 square feet for a VIP area and hospitality zone.
- The amphitheater will incorporate several acoustical design features (i.e., 30-foot high bleachers with closed backs, 50-foot tall barrier placed around the stage and loudspeakers) intended to limit noise leaving the site.
- The proposed site offers multiple options for vehicular access, especially compared to the limited access at the former Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. Delays formerly associated with parking payment at Irvine Meadows have been eliminated as the cost to park will be included in the ticket price.
- The site’s 4,000-space parking lot will be accessible from:
- Chinon, which will be extended from Irvine Boulevard/ Portola High School to the amphitheater parking lot
- Great Park Boulevard via Sand Canyon Avenue or Jeffrey Road;
- Great Park via either Marine Way or Perimeter Rd. for the sole use of car service companies (e.g., Uber, Lyft, taxis, limousines) will be available on event days. Both sides of the access points will lead to designated drop-off and pick-up areas for car service companies.
- Irvine Station, via a pedestrian walkway from the station to the amphitheater. The station should offer a convenient drop-off and pick-up location. Event attendees will have the ability to take Amtrak or Metrolink to Irvine Station and walk directly to the amphitheater. Currently there are no Metrolink trains scheduled late enough for concert attendees leaving the shows. There may be the opportunity for special trains, as are scheduled for select Anaheim Angels games;
- Future vehicle access via Marine Way could also be considered at the discretion of the city.
- With two queuing lanes and a length of over one mile, Chinon will typically be the preferred public access route to the temporary amphitheater so as to prevent backup of traffic onto public roadways.