As The Oshkosh Shed Turns

So far, this isn’t the Year of the Amphitheatre. Some are going up for sale while others – Germain Amphitheatre in Columbus, Ohio, specifically – are booking as few as seven shows this season.

Then there’s the case of Oshkosh, Wis., where city officials are scratching their heads, wondering why a facility operator hasn’t booked Roger Waters yet.

PMI, the Green Bay-based promoter responsible for managing the Leach Amphitheatre in Oshkosh, has found itself the target of the criticism.

It began following the submission of a report outlining PMI’s goals for the 2007 season, according to the Oshkosh Northwestern. Members of the Oshkosh Common Council told the paper they don’t think the company is making the best use of the facility.

PMI President Ken Wachter told Pollstar his company has been managing the amphitheatre, which is home to the city’s annual Waterfest summer concert series, for three years under an agreement with the city. His company also runs the Resch Center and the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay where PMI can bring in acts like Josh Groban and "Dancing With The Stars."

But when it comes to the Oshkosh shed, without permanent or covered seats, Wachter says he has to explain himself.

"We pay the city $30,000 a year for the rights to run the amphitheatre," Wachter said. "We keep the promoter profit, plus food and beverage which we also run. So far, we’ve yet to make money.

"We keep trying to book events that will make money. We just haven’t been able to find the right events at the right time, I guess."

Wachter said that Waterfest, which is run by a local nonprofit group, does about 16 events a year on Thursdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"That’s part of the agreement," Wachter said. "They do their shows and then we book things around their Thursday nights."

Even though Waterfest organizers are flexible, the concert series has been harder to work around than he anticipated, Wachter said. He also said he thinks Waterfest’s cheap tickets (shows run around $7) and status as an Oshkosh tradition work against him.

"I don’t want to bad-mouth Waterfest, because that’s why they built the building," he said. "But they’re not necessarily in the business to make money, where I have to. By having a very inexpensive ticket for all these years, it’s hard for me to have an expensive ticket the next day."

As far as suggestions from council members that the facility should be used for more than just live music, Wachter said he’s tried to bring in other things like weddings. He’s open to anyone who wants to use the venue, but people lose interest when they find out it’ll cost them.

PMI has two more years on its contract with the city. Wachter said that despite what he thinks are unreasonable expectations, he believes the venue is a success.

"The perception that it’s a failure is wrong," he said. "When you have 20-something nights of entertainment in a community of less than 100,000, that’s pretty good in my opinion."