The Empty Seats Of Lithia

Management at a 2-year-old shed in Central Point, Ore., is facing a problem.

The 5,900-seat Lithia Motors Amphitheatre is sitting empty for most of the year, and the board that governs it is looking for ways to generate more money from the $4 million venue.

GM Chris Borovansky told Pollstar some of Lithia’s issue stems from a deal the Jackson County Fair board made with a local promoter.

"We want to use it to its maximum extent, but we have an agreement with a local music festival, with whom we’d anticipated to do a number of shows – six shows or so a year – and we’ve done two or three shows each year," Borovansky said. "It’s in our best interest to utilize the facility to its greatest degree, so we’re just kind of going around and around about the best way to do that."

The deal with local promoter Britt Festivals leaves the amphitheatre in a tough spot. Britt has right of first refusal on any shows the board tries to book itself.

Borovansky said the board must get written approval from Britt to book shows 60 to 90 days out, but "60 days and in, we just book whomever we want to book."

But because there is no exclusive agreement with Britt, he explained, the board is looking more and more toward booking itself. They’ve apparently worked with Lowell MacGregor Group, Live Nation and Double Tee in the past, and the future could see similar productions.

"I think what we’re doing right now is accelerating our effort to bring other promoters into the venue and to find incentives to get them to utilize the facility, more rather than less," Borovansky said.

But Britt Festivals’ marketing director Kelly Gonzales told Pollstar that while Britt is "definitely still open to booking shows out there," the company is "waiting for the right opportunity – it just hasn’t presented itself yet."

Gonzales said the partnership has been "working out some kinks" that don’t necessarily have to do with the contract at all – including issues with backstage amenities and production.

"We are having ongoing meetings and working collaboratively with the fair board in figuring out ways to make it work out there," Gonzales said.

Whether the current deal with Britt could hinder the fair board’s efforts to book the shed is yet to be seen.

"I think the question that we’re all trying to answer is whether or not having an agreement is in our best interest or their best interest," Borovansky said. "That’s something that the two boards, the Jackson County Fair Board and the Britt Festival Board, will be determining."