Here are the finalists bidding to lead Clearwater’s Downtown Amphitheater

In choosing an organization to manage Clearwater’s future waterfront amphitheater, the city has a choice between its longtime performing arts partner and a global developer of entertainment venues. with a local tie.

On Tuesday, a committee of city staff will interview two finalists who bid to manage the 4,000-seat indoor amphitheater currently under construction as part of Coachman Park’s $84 million redevelopment, the city’s most ambitious attempt. for decades to revitalize the struggling downtown.

One of the finalists is Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Clearwater-based nonprofit that has operated the city-owned performing arts facility on McMullen Booth Road for 40 years. He booked international acts while emphasizing the arts education of young people.

The other is OVG360, a division of Oak View Group, a Los Angeles-based global sports and entertainment company founded in 2015 by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Music Director Irving Azoff and National Director of Sports and Entertainment. Tim Leiweke music.

For its Clearwater proposal, the Oak View Group partnered with Tampa-based Vinik Sports Group, which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and operates Amalie Arena and the University of South Florida’s Yuengling Center.

However, the details of what the finalists submitted about how they would manage the future downtown site, including revenue projections or their visions for programming, are still confidential.

Citing state law, Clearwater procurement manager Lori Vogel said she will release responses when the committee selects a finalist, or on April 29, which is 30 days after the bidding period. , whichever comes first.

City council is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation in May.

The most recent render of Imagine Clearwater with the amphitheater on the north side of the park. [ City of Clearwater ]

The selection committee is made up of City Manager Jon Jennings, Community Redevelopment Agency Director Amanda Thompson, Chief Financial Officer Jay Ravins, Parks and Recreation Director James Halios and Senior Parks Director Kristopher Koch.

A third company submitted a proposal but was not invited by the committee for an interview. That contestant was a collaboration between Tampa-based Big City Events and Gasparilla Music Foundation, according to the foundation’s executive director, David Cox.

In its RFP released in February, the city was looking for companies to manage year-round amphitheater operations in the soon-to-be-revitalized Coachman Park. The city said the chosen company will work independently to book talent; produce and market events; staff the site; and providing concessions, security and suppliers.

In addition to the entertainment venue, the 22-acre park will include a garden, playground, walkway and walking path. City officials expect construction on the project, called Imagine Clearwater, to be completed in the summer of 2023.

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Oak View Group has developed venues across the United States and around the world, including the Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center; UBS Arena in Belmont Park, NY; Moody Center in Austin, TX; New arena in Coachella Valley, Calif.; and Co-op Live in Manchester, UK, according to its website.

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is also a partner in the $3.5 billion development of Water Street Tampa outside of Amelie Arena, though that venture is separate from his Vinik Sports Group, which is involved in the Clearwater’s proposal.

“We felt that working together here with (Vinik Sports Group’s) commitment to the region and global expertise (Oak View Group) is a great opportunity for us to step in and help Clearwater with the amphitheater they’re about to build,” said Steve Griggs. , CEO of Vinik Sports Group.

Ruth Eckerd Hall has a long-standing interest in the downtown waterfront redevelopment project.

In addition to the facility on McMullen-Booth Road, Ruth Eckerd Hall operates the city-owned Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theater on Cleveland Street and has hosted concerts in the old Coachman Park for years.

The Imagine Clearwater concept finalized in 2017 only offered a simple, uncovered headband for concerts and events, similar to what had existed at the park for years.

Zev Buffman, then CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall, pushed the council to consider building an amphitheater covering at least 4,000 seats to attract larger performers and become a regional draw. The council voted in 2019 to change the design of the park to replace the strip uncovered by the boutique amphitheater.

Current CEO Susan Crockett said decades of local collaboration and the nonprofit’s “national reputation for excellence in our industry” make her uniquely qualified to manage the Coachman Park Amphitheater.

“Ruth Eckerd Hall is deeply rooted here and the best-located of any operator for community immersion, especially with the new opportunities the location provides,” Crockett said.

Laura J. Boyer