If all goes according to plan, a crowded landscape of concert venues in the Triangle is going to get even more so.
A 5,000-capacity outdoor amphitheater will occupy the block just west of the convention center in downtown Raleigh.
It's to open this summer. Live Nation, the mega-promoter that also operates Raleigh's city-owned Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek, has agreed to book 15 to 20 dates there a year. In Charlotte, Live Nation brings acts to Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Time Warner Cable Arena and N.C. Music Factory.
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"We've based our business projections on 17 shows, $35 a ticket and 3,000 attendance per show," says Roger Krupa with the City of Raleigh. "That's very conservative, and it works for everybody."
While Live Nation will get first dibs on dates, other promoters would book events there as well. As proposed by the city, the facility will present acts such as The Fray, Hall & Oates, Seal and Tori Amos.
Where it gets complicated in the Triangle, however, is there's already an outdoor venue working that territory. That's Cary's 7,000-capacity Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park.
The new facility will have to find its niche among Booth, 20,000-capacity Walnut Creek and 3,000-capacity N.C. Museum of Art; the similar-size Durham Performing Arts Center and Raleigh's slightly smaller Memorial Auditorium; on-campus theaters such as Duke's Page Auditorium and UNC Chapel Hill's Memorial Hall; and of course, Raleigh's 20,000-seat RBC Center.
They all have their niches. Walnut Creek's bread and butter is country, while Booth is home to N.C. Symphony's Summerfest and some comedy. Blues and folk rule at the N.C. Museum of Art, while Memorial and DPAC do battle over touring Broadway shows. RBC has become the primary indoor arena for large concerts.
Is there enough business to support all these venues in a sluggish economy? The new downtown amphitheater might be well-timed, given trends in the concert business.
The concert industry is getting smaller, and Walnut Creek is feeling the pinch. The venue earned $18.3 million in 2009, a 23 percent drop from 2008.
With fewer acts on the road capable of drawing arena-size crowds, a smaller amphitheater in an urban setting might be just the thing.