Tampa Shed Seeks Compromise

Stress levels at Tampa, Fla.’s Ford Amphitheatre decreased slightly following an announcement July 27th that ongoing court proceedings over noise levels at the Clear Channel-operated shed will be put on hold to allow for a possible out-of-court settlement.

Some residents who live near the 20,000-seat venue have complained repeatedly about loud concerts since it opened in July 2004. The Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission says there have been more than 300 violations of the noise ordinance, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The EPC filed a lawsuit in December against Clear Channel and the Florida State Fair Authority, which owns the land, seeking to halt concerts until the promoter proved it could comply with local noise ordinances, the Tampa Tribune reported.

The two sides have until October 28th, or until a mediator – retired Judge Guy Spicola – decides an agreement can’t be reached, according to the Times. If they can’t compromise by the deadline, the county’s lawsuit becomes active again.

Additionally, EPC attorney Mark Bentley agreed to drop a second lawsuit against Clear Channel that he filed on behalf of two residents who complained that concerts were disrupting, the Times said. That case will be renewed if a compromise isn’t reached.

“We believe we have a workable agreement and look forward to bringing this to a full commission of approval,” Ford Amphitheatre Director of Marketing David Harb told Pollstar. “We look forward to working with the EPC to finalize the appropriate sound standards.”

EPC Executive Director Dr. Richard Garrity agreed, stating, “We are hopeful that this stand-down period will give both parties the opportunity to work towards a fair and reasonable resolution of the citizens’ concerns regarding noise from the amphitheatre.”

Ford Amphitheatre GM Ed Morrell explained in a statement that the $23 million shed is working with the EPC to finalize a broad package of architectural, structural and administrative changes at the venue’s own expense.

“We are committed to providing the best experience for music fans with minimal disruption to our neighbors,” he said.

The joint announcement came only days after Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Charlene Honeywell ruled that Clear Channel does not have sovereign immunity protection from local noise regulations at the shed, which means the company could be sued.

Honeywell dismissed a lawsuit against the Florida State Fair Authority July 11th, saying it has sovereign immunity as a state agency.

Following that ruling, Clear Channel argued that since it built the shed on property leased from the fair authority, it should share the fair’s immunity. The company also denied its concerts are too loud and claimed the EPC holds the amphitheatre to a different standard than other venues.

Meanwhile, Clear Channel’s Cellar Door announced July 26th that an August 1st Anger Management date – featuring Eminem and 50 Cent – would be moved from the shed to the 22,000-seat St. Pete Times Forum.

“Until that situation is resolved fairly and successfully, moving to the indoor venue will allow the artists on the bill to deliver their performances in the way they are intended to be performed for their fans,” a statement from the company said.

Harb said the relocation was at the request of Cellar Door and had nothing to do with the artists. He also stressed that upcoming concerts at the amphitheatre – including Toby Keith, Avril Lavigne, Coldplay, Journey, Alan Jackson and more – will go on as planned.