Wilson Rogers, Live Nation senior VP of venues southeast, took a trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., October 23rd to give city officials some advice about building amphitheatres.
A city council member invited Rogers to give some recommendations and guidance because the city is considering setting aside about $750,000 a year, expected from an increase in its lodging tax, for a riverfront amphitheatre or a downtown civic center, according to the Tuscaloosa News.
Rogers, who’s worked with Live Nation from the beginning and has "enjoyed every minute" of a 30-year career in the building business, told Pollstar the call from Tuscaloosa didn’t come as a surprise. Live Nation works with a variety of city, county and state governments in building venues and gets calls on a regular basis from organizations seeking similar advice.
In the planning stages, it’s important to first figure out what the city wants from the venue.
"What direction are you going?" Rogers asked the city council, according to the Tuscaloosa News. "What are you trying to be? What are you trying to do? What need do you want to fill?"
Rogers told the council, "There’s all kinds of ways to skin this cat. You’ve got to determine if this is a quality-of-life thing or a commercial thing you’re trying to do."
He explained the statement to Pollstar by adding, "Functionality and form are the major cornerstones of any great project. Determining what you want from these cornerstones is paramount."
Councilman Lee Garrison, who asked Rogers to speak, said he believes Tuscaloosa is a great place for an amphitheatre because the town is a trade center for west Alabama and east-central Mississippi. Having a huge college student population from nearby University of Alabama, Shelton State Community College and Stillman College doesn’t hurt either.
"We’ve got 40,000 18- to-22-year-olds within four or five miles of downtown," Garrison was quoted saying.
Even so, Rogers warned that a facility in Tuscaloosa shouldn’t count on drawing top-tier acts – but he said it could attract good acts that will get butts in seats.
Because of the location next to the river, Rogers recommended the city not back the building up against it because there needs to be room to move equipment through the back door.
The venue exec went over some general costs with the city, explaining that site preparation would eat up the biggest chunk of change. He suggested getting basic facilities built first, as seating can always be expanded later if needed.
Rogers broke down the facility cost as about $1,050 per seat and said the site and amount of parking available will be major factors in determining capacity, according to the paper.
Rogers warned the city council to expect opposition from those who think public money is being spent on private enterprise because the government has hired outside companies to manage a shed. He also warned that the city can expect complaints about the noise – no matter what.
"Ten percent of the public will always complain," Rogers said.
Despite opposition, complaints and the building costs, Rogers said that one of the many wonderful byproducts of a well thought-out development plan is the memories that go along with an entertainment venue.
"A concert is not just music," Rogers said. "It’s about memories. What you’re talking about is more than a slab of concrete and a couple of sticks holding a stage."