The future remains unclear for live music in Irvine in 2024 as plans for a temporary amphitheater at the Great Park did not make much movement this week.

City staff had proposed setting up a temporary amphitheater for the 2024 summer season and for it to remain throughout the end of the 2026 season or until Irvine completes construction of a permanent amphitheater, which is slated to open in time for the 2027 summer concert season.

The Great Park Board on Tuesday, Nov. 28, considered a preliminary plan for such a temporary venue but ultimately opted to go back to the drawing board after many members expressed concerns about the lack of a concrete cost analysis and negative impacts that might be felt by the nearby community.

City staff — with the assistance of San Diego-based event production company Gravity Productions and input from the Pacific Symphony — had proposed North Lawn, a seven-acre multipurpose recreation area at the Great Park Sports Complex, as a potential site for a temporary amphitheater with up to 8,000 in seating capacity. The location would provide “sufficient space and capacity for a live music venue” as well as the “flexibility of configuring the space in a variety of ways,” a staff report said.

A facility at North Lawn would have the range to accommodate tables and chairs for a symphonic performance and house bleachers or festival-style seating for more commercially-oriented acts, according to staff.

Mayor Farrah Khan, however, pointed out the close proximity of the proposed venue to the Travata at Cypress Village retirement community.

“How are we going to assure that that community or anyone nearby aren’t going to be impacted, and even those that are further, like Woodbridge and Quail Hill?” she said.

The site layout, according to assistant city manager Pete Carmichael, has the stage pointing northeast to the closest neighborhoods, which directs the sound away from them. Staff also sought experts’ advice on reducing sound from the in-house speakers, he said.

Councilmember Mike Carroll, who chairs the Great Park Board, said he was concerned about negative impacts that might be felt by Travata. A Metrolink train maintenance facility proposed near the Great Park already has residents in the senior community worried about potential noise, air pollution and traffic concerns in the area, and an amphitheater in the vicinity will likely add to their concerns, Carroll said.

While community members who addressed the board on Tuesday expressed support for a temporary music venue, most disapproved of the proposed North Lawn site, citing traffic, noise, parking constraints and a potential lack of space for kids to play at the Sports Complex.

“We might need to go back to the drawing board to some degree and look at something different,” Carroll said.

It’s important to “harmonize the various interests in a way that works for everybody,” said Councilmember Larry Agran. “I want this to be value added to the community.”

Khan also criticized the abundance of estimates and potentials and the lack of concrete information, most notably a cost analysis.

“How many shows are we going to have to book in this temporary theater throughout the year in order to make up the money we put in not only getting (the temporary amphitheater) up and running but also maintaining it for the next three years?” she asked.

Carmichael said a $600,000 sponsorship from FivePoint for a temporary venue would secure the stage and bleachers. There would be an upfront cost of roughly $1.5 million to cover the stage, bleachers, fencing and some other fixed costs of establishing a venue, he said.

“We’re looking at a business model where we can recover as much of the costs as we can from ticket sales, merchandise and food and beverage,” Carmichael said. “Initial looks show that over the three years, we can get pretty close to breaking even.”

According to the staff report, however, a situation could arise in which a temporary venue costs the city up to $3 million.

Despite not moving forward with a temporary venue, yet, the board on Tuesday voted to accept the $600,000 from FivePoint.

When asked by Carroll if there are “strings attached” to the sponsorship, Carmichael said FivePoint is not asking for anything in return. City Manager Oliver Chi said FivePoint had “explicitly asked to not have their name” attached to the temporary amphitheater.

A spokesperson for FivePoint did not respond to a request for comment.

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Councilmember Tammy Kim, who wanted to move forward with staff proposals for the temporary venue, said the board needs to move fast to allow Pacific Symphony enough time to finalize its program for the 2024 summer season.

The Pacific Symphony needs to finalize its summer program by January, said its president and CEO, John Forsyte. For the time being, they’ll be working off of assumptions that a temporary venue will be in place by the time the summer season begins, he said.

“We’ve been playing at Irvine Meadows from 1988 to 2017,” Forsyte said. “It’s important for us to stay here.”

The FivePoint Amphitheatre, which opened in 2017 as a temporary bridge between the demolished Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre and a permanent venue to be built at the Great Park, closed on Saturday, Oct. 21 after a final concert by the Zac Brown Band. Due to ongoing FivePoint residential development in that area, there wouldn’t have been any way to continue producing shows in that space.

Chi said city staff will spend the next couple of months working with live music promoters, Pacific Symphony and other industry partners to coordinate the site layout, economics, sizing and traffic flow of a potential venue and come back early next year with final options for board consideration.