Bridgeport Council OKs Shed Deal With Developer, Koplik, Live Nation

Bridgeport, Conn., is a step closer to having an amphitheatre for outdoor concerts with the committee approval of a plan put forward by Live Nation’s Jim Koplik and developer Howard Saffan to convert the now-unoccupied Ballpark at Harbor Yard into a music venue.

Ballpark At Harbor Yard
– Ballpark At Harbor Yard

The proposed 5,500-seat amphitheater awaits one final approval by the mayor after the city council approved a “near unanimous” recommendation on a 20-year agreement by the contracts committee that allows the promoter and developer to renovate and repurpose the former minor league baseball stadium, according to the Connecticut Post.

Koplik told the committee at its Oct. 6 meeting he already has a vision for the shed’s grand opening: homegrown artist  John Mayer. “Eventually I’ll talk to him about it and see if he’ll open up the place,” the Post quoted him saying. “I think a ‘homeboy’ should do it.”

But before committing to a John Mayer blowout, Koplik and Saffan will have to overcome objections to the amphitheater from the Sound Tigers hockey team that has a financial interest in nearby, 10,000-seat Webster Bank Arena.

Sound Tigers owner Jon Ledecky has said the renovation of the ballpark into an amphitheater would create competition and force the team to “exercise all of their rights under the operating agreement,” according to the Post.

However, city attorney R. Christopher Meyer told the paper after the meeting that his position – and that of the city – is that Live Nation, by virtue of having a “side deal” with the developer, would not violate the venue’s non-compete clause.

During the meeting, Koplik reportedly countered concerns about competition to Webster Bank Arena, saying the new venue will be good for Bridgeport and good for the venue as well.

“The value of this to the arena is right now you get next to nothing – two to three shows a  year (there),” the paper quoted Koplik saying. “Bridgeport’s not on the concert map. We intend to build an amphitheater that will put Bridgeport on the concert map.” He added that by providing a great outdoor experience for concerts, artists may be convinced to return for indoor shows at Webster Bank Arena.

Pollstar data supports Koplik’s argument about the number of shows at Webster Bank Arena. Box office reports were received on just three shows in 2017, four in 2016 and one in 2015 – although there are unreported family shows like “Disney On Ice,” Harlem Globetrotters and the Tour of Gymnastics Champions that also took place there during that time.

Saffan reportedly operated Webster Bank Arena until 2015, as a former owner of the Sound Tigers. He reported the new venue will also have a “swanky” section to cater to touring artists, including a kitchen and massage room.

Koplik and Saffan emphasized during their presentation that they intend to hire local residents and food vendors, improve lighting and property aesthetics.

Under the proposed deal, the city and Saffan will split the $15 million estimated cost of construction and Saffan is to pay Bridgeport an annual rent of $3 per ticket sold or a minimum of $150,000 per year, the Post reports. Saffan will also pay the city’s 5 percent admission tax.

Koplik wasn’t immediately available to comment by phone to Pollstar