Bang the drums loudly!
As Alice Cooper sang, school is indeed out for summer. Judging from the hundreds, if not thousands, of comments we have received on Facebook, through the website, and in emails and letters, one of the biggest issues on the minds of Irvine residents this summer is the final season of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. We have heard from people remembering their first concerts, their favorite concerts, concert dates that turned into marriages, etc. Since 1981, Irvine residents have enjoyed the sights and sounds of Orange County’s premiere outdoor music venue.
It was reported that the inaugural act at the beloved concert venue was the Charlie Daniels Band. Since then, all kinds of acts have come through our hometown venue. Michael Jackson did three nights during his Bad Tour in 1988. The Grateful Dead played the venue 15 times. And who could forget the annual Oingo Boingo Halloween shows that played for seven years? This season includes a huge variety of acts from Dead & Company (with John Mayer) to Snoop Dogg to Jimmy Buffett, and Jason Aldean, just to name a few. The Pacific Symphony Orchestra season is also upon us and they will play six shows under the stars.
In listening to the community, two clear thoughts have emerged:
First, people don’t believe that this is really the final season for the venue. People say that they have heard it is the last season before and therefore, some are in disbelief that this is really it. This topic is the easiest one to speak to because barring a miracle, the Irvine Company, the owner of the land, has already informed LiveNation, the operator of the facility, that their lease will end at the end of the year. Years ago, the Irvine City Council was able to obtain several more seasons of operation for Wild Rivers after the public outcry forced the issue, but we have heard of no such plea from the council in this case. It would seem that proper planning by the city council and planning commission, who approved apartments for the site, would have made a plan for the transition of the facility PRIOR to the final approval of the apartments, but that was not done.
NOTE: in the upcoming election, Mary Ann Gaido, who is running for mayor, has made “standing up to the developers” and a “building moratorium” key issues in her campaign, yet Gaido was the chairwoman of the planning commission when the apartments that are replacing the amphitheater were approved. (See our coverage of the election issues as they unfold in our paper and at our social media sites where you can join the discussion.)
Second, people don’t believe there is an alternative site available to build a new venue. We have received comments saying that once it is gone, it won’t come back in Irvine. The Cultural Terrace portion of the Great Park Master Plan has always had a performing arts venue located there and several studies conducted by the city of Irvine have found that the outdoor amphitheater use is one of the most popular potential features of the Great Park. This is not to say that the Irvine City Council could have a new amphitheater open and operational by the season after this one, but that doesn’t mean that the council couldn’t put an end to the speculation and give the community the win that they so clearly are looking for by declaring once and for all that a concert venue will be built at the park.
The Irvine City Council should approve a deal with LiveNation to save the jobs of the thousands of people who work at the venue every summer, to preserve Irvine’s importance as a center of cultural arts in Orange County, AND to make the Great Park truly great.