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After Inaugural Season, Live Nation Asks For 10 More Annual Shows 

By Johanna F. Still, posted Jan 18, 2022
Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park in downtown Wilmington welcomed thousands of Widespread Panic fans in July last year. (File photo)

Live Nation is requesting 10 additional shows for the 2022 concert season at Live Oak Bank Pavilion. 

The inaugural season ended last month with 19 shows (Lake Street Dive, the last Live Nation event of the season, canceled the day of, citing plans to reschedule that have yet to be announced). Under the city of Wilmington’s 10-year management contract with Live Nation, the national firm can book at least 15 and up to 20 events each year at the venue. 

“We’re in a unique position,” Live Nation general manager Ryan Belcher told the Wilmington City Council at an agenda briefing Monday morning. “We have more artists and bands that want to come to Wilmington than available slots.”

City Manager Tony Caudle has the authority to increase the number of shows Live Nation can host at the city-owned amphitheater per the parties’ agreement; Caudle told council Monday he was seeking information on the use of department resources before acting on the company’s request. 

Last year, Live Nation’s 19 shows attracted 89,458 attendees, according to numbers provided by the city. This figure doesn’t include civic events (like the Azalea Festival and the city’s Fourth of July grand opening, which attracted 25,583 attendees combined) or event rentals (including the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival, Lighthouse Beer & Wine Festival and Christmas movie and visits with Santa, which brought in 11,314 people). 

"People are coming from all over," Belcher said. Including the Azalea Festival concerts, Belcher said 41% of ticketholders were from Wilmington and the rest were from outside the local market. "We sold 26 tickets in Alaska," he said, illustrating the hundreds of different zip codes where tickets were purchased and the wide-reaching range of the venue and artists' interest. 

The city gets $2 of every ticket sold and $200,000 annually from Live Nation to rent the venue, per the agreement, and also collects revenues from civic events and venue rentals. 

So far, the city has collected $314,000 in total revenues at the park, having been paid two quarterly rental installments from Live Nation from the season that began in July with the triple-header opener, Wide Spread Panic.

Quantifying the economic boost the $38-million park has spurred is difficult without data, but anecdotally, hotel owners, restaurant and bar employees have reported bursts in business around concerts. 

“Unfortunately, there are no metrics to track the venue's economic impact on downtown Wilmington,” Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI) spokesperson Christina Haley wrote in an email. 

Belcher told city council the firm hired roughly 625 people, most of which were part-time employees, to help run the events.

“Our caterer, our laundry, our cleaning crew, tent rentals, staffing agencies, food trucks, were all local companies that benefitted from this venue,” he said. 

Councilmember Neil Anderson asked Belcher how he planned to stack the upcoming concerts considering the requested additional shows, citing the multi-night shows for GRiZ and Widespread Panic. “People that live there don’t want to have to endure three, four shows in a row,” he said. 

Last season was a condensed one, considering the park opened in July, and this season the booked shows will be more spread out, Belcher said. So far this season, Live Nation has announced six shows, the earliest booked for April 12.

The U.S. House Oversight Committee is investigating Live Nation’s role in the Astroworld tragedy in Houston, where 10 attendees died and hundreds were injured, prompted by extreme overcrowding. Councilmember Clifford Barnett asked Belcher, “What are we doing to make sure that doesn’t happen here?” 

Belcher said the comparison was apples to oranges, considering the size of the shows, and also cited his comments would have to be limited as the event was under investigation. “We train extensively,” he said. “We have show stop procedures.” 

The inaugural season occurred “without incident,” Belcher said. A city staff memo on the season roundup cites nuisance behavior along Front Street near the apartment complex Flats on Front following concerts, with illegal drug use and public urination. The area was added to WDI’s downtown ambassadors’ PM shift, according to the memo. 

Council and staff are requesting a more detailed rundown of the concert season crime statistics from Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams in the coming weeks. 

Deputy City Manager Thom Moton said after a meeting with Williams, he gleaned the department is struggling with COVID-19 fatigue, with staffing presenting a major challenge. Both WPD and Live Nation agree the number of officers at each event, which is generally 10, can be reduced this season. The city is looking to augment public resources, with 50% of security to be provided by Live Nation instead by utilizing a private security firm. 

The city is working with a private property owner to potentially introduce handicap parking near the venue – a major concern presented this concert season, as reported by Port City Daily.

Anderson urged Belcher to ensure the park utilized more than one entrance to prevent bottlenecking and to make the main entrance clear with signage. Uber and Lyft drivers who are familiar with the area would not follow the geofencing drop-off zones, creating issues for Live Nation. ​

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