Greek Theatre Contacts for Show Night Issues
The 2016 Greek Theatre season runs from April 15th through the end of October. The Greek is under new management this season and personnel has changed. Below are the names and numbers of the individuals to contact for all issues (traffic, noise, security, etc.) during show nights.
First Contact – Mike Seguin 661-810-3172
Second Contact – Serena Ward or Adriana Smith 323-703-1385
Greek Theatre General Number 323-844-7335
Greek Theatre Contact Information
Website Address: www.lagreektheatre.com
Phone Number 1-800-LA GREEK (1-800-524-7335)
Community Liaison: Serena Fiss Ward
Email address for community residents to access Greek staff members with feedback/questions during both business hours and event days:
New GM of Greek Named
Becky Colwell has been named general manager of the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. She will be working under the direct supervision of SMG, the company hired to manage the day-to-day operations of the Greek. Both Colwell and SMG report directly to Michael Shull, general manager of LA’s Department of Recreation and Parks. RAP has complete control over Greek personnel.
Colwell, who has extensive experience in amphitheater management, was previously the general manager of the 7,000-seat Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, N.C. “In our world there are venues we consider iconic; the ones that other amphitheaters aspire to be. That’s how industry leaders, performers and patrons feel about the Greek,” Colwell stated in a SMG news release.
Meanwhile, the 5,870-seat Greek Theatre is undergoing extensive renovation before the 2016 season kicks off. That work is being conducted by Rios Clementi Hale Studios of Los Angeles.
The season starts April 16 with a performance by Grammy-winning singer Pepe Aguilar and runs through Oct. 21. More information can be found on the theater’s new website: lagreektheatre.com.
The Greek Theatre – Going Forward
The 2015 season marked the final year of Nederlander Concert’s decades-long operation of the Greek Theatre. The next operator of the Greek Theatre is neither of the two companies who fought to win the 10 year contract, but the City itself. The Department of Recreation and Parks weighed self-operation against awarding the contract to either Live Nation or Nederlander Concerts, and decided it could achieve a better financial outcome if the Department oversaw the venue management. So when the 2016 season opens this Spring, the City will be running the historic theatre. To manage day to day facility operations, the City has hired SMG, a world leader in venue management, marketing and development.
Background: An overview of the Greek Theatre contract process
Update March – July 2015
Greek Theatre RFP Is Cancelled & RAP Announces New Plan
On February 11, 2015, after massive public protest, the City Council rejected RAP’s selection of Live Nation to run the Greek for the next twenty years. In doing so, the Council approved a motion to recommend that RAP start over with a new RFP to be developed in close consultation with the Council and the Community.
Subsequently, on March 4, RAP withdrew the RFP and returned all applicant deposits (for details of the early process see below). A month later, instead of extending the current Nederlander contract for another year and starting over with a new RFP, RAP staff announced a new plan to self-operate the Greek Theatre. At the April 15 RAP Commission meeting, General Manager Michael Shull, presented a Staff Report that laid out the self-operation plan; this was essentially an outline that referred to a number of separate elements to be implemented over the following months. The Commission approved the plan.
Once the Commission approved the self-operation plan, City Council had a short window in which to assert jurisdiction over the matter via a “245 Motion.” At the April 25 Council session, there was a push to assert jurisdiction, however, our Councilmember at the time refused to support the 245 Motion and, as a result, the effort died on the floor of the Council and RAP staff began implementing the plan on a fast track.
It has been clear from the start that the new plan is revenue driven since the Staff sold the plan by emphasizing that they could increase income to the department to somewhere between $3M – $4.8M. No supporting Income/Expense numbers were provided for this rosy estimate (under Nederlander the annual revenue in 2014 was $1.7M).
It should be noted that when the last RFP fell apart, Nederlander-Greek sent a letter to the City with an offer stating that, if the City wished to extend the current contract, Nederlander would voluntarily increase their annual guaranteed revenue to $3.5M (this offer was ignored by General Manager Michael Shull).
Another notable aspect of the RAP self-operation plan is that it was specifically designed and timed to keep the self-operation plan entirely within Commission control and out of the hands of City Council.
RAP Self-Operation – The Plan
For the last forty years the Greek Theatre has been managed as a simple boutique operation, where a single operator is responsible for every facet of the operation. The Nederlander Company, that currently runs the Greek, is an award winning, professional management company that runs multiple facilities all over the country. They are very, very good at what they do. Under their management, the surrounding neighborhood experiences quick and efficient cooperation whenever problems arise. Out of respect for the impact certain kinds of programming can have on the neighborhood, Nederlander exercises immense discretion in the type of entertainment that is appropriate for the Greek.
Under the new RAP plan, operation of the venue becomes a highly stratified bureaucratic system with every facet being overseen and/or executed directly by the RAP Staff, none of whom have any experience running a world class venue like the Greek.
Under the self-operation plan, an outside management company is to be hired (through an RFP process) to handle the day-to-day running of the facility (none of the previous RFP applicants qualify). A separate company is to be hired to run the Food & Beverage concession (RFP). RAP Staff is to oversee the booking of the venue. Promoters will contract directly with the City through a new “User Agreement” and “Rental Agreement.” RAP will be responsible for all maintenance and related maintenance costs.
RAP plans to install a department employee as a “Community Liaison” to serve as buffer between the neighborhood and the Department. Unlike the twenty to forty million dollars of renovations proposed in the now-defunct RFP process, all facility renovations are to be planned and executed by the Department and paid for with tax-payer funds. (It appears that the Department may already have hired Live Nation’s architects to design extensive renovations.)
While this process has unfolded, with the different elements rolled out piecemeal, LFIA has attempted as to keep up with this fast moving and complex issue. We’ve tried to monitor the development of the different components and understand how these distinct pieces work together. Despite the fact that we remain opposed to this self-operation plan, we have continued to work with the Department as best we can to assure that issues of noise mitigation and traffic and security are in place. It is our hope to protect the neighborhood from an increase in the number of concerts, a new company in charge of enforcing noise violations and an unknown traffic/parking plan.
Among the many concerns are:
- Lack of consultation/vetting with a wide array of stakeholders: While LFIA has met twice with Mr. Shull to air concerns regarding traffic and issues regarding noise abatement, the wider public has been largely excluded from the process. LFIA advocates postponing the implementation of the plan for a year while RAP fully vets the details to all interested parties within a five-mile radius.
- Noise bleed-over that affects surrounding homes: LFIA has been instrumental in establishing new decibel (db) level restrictions, a new sound monitoring system and graduated fines for violation of noise restrictions. We have requested that the monitoring system includes a dedicated webpage that displays real-time readouts of db levels.
- Increase in the number and size of events: The RAP plan has no cap on the number of shows or the number of consecutive days that can be booked. There is every indication that RAP’s push for increased revenue includes a significant rise in the number of events in the season. The plan also includes monetary incentives for higher capacity (at or near sell-out) events. This year, the venue hosted some sixty-five (65) events. Since the plan has no caps on the number of events, there could conceivably be many as eighty-five (85) to ninety (90) events; this could inevitably result in a number of instances of back-to-back events for several days running – a clear hardship on surrounding residents.
- Traffic: With Hollywood Sign tourism traffic routed out of Beachwood Canyon and sent into our neighborhood, we’re already experiencing traffic overload. LFIA continues to push for a clear and comprehensive traffic plan that includes reducing private auto traffic including for the Greek, the Observatory and Hollywood Sign tourism. We also continue to push for a park-wide event calendar that prevents double booking of events at different facilities in the same timeframe.
- Parking: RAP has proposed adding a compulsory $7.00 parking fee to each Greek Theatre ticket. LFIA is opposed to this practice. We feel compulsory fees will undo what has been gained under Nederlander operation and will drive more traffic onto our streets as facility patrons shun alternate forms of arrival such as remote shuttles, Dine & Ride and public transportation.
- Safety: LFIA continues to push for levels of security in the neighborhood that are at least equal to that provided by Nederlander.
The Greek Theatre contract process 2014 till March 2015
After years of contract extensions, on June 4, 2014, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) finally released a long-delayed Request For Proposals (RFP) for operation of the historic Greek Theatre. The RFP encompassed a ten-year contract with an option of two five-year extensions.
Two proposals were submitted: (1) Nederlander Concerts (the Greek Theatre operator for the past 39 years) submitted in partnership with concert giant AEG Live (operator of LA Live and Nokia Center) and (2) Live Nation (the nation’s largest concert promoter, which also owns Ticketmaster).
The Early Evolution Of The RFP Process
In 2011, the Department engaged an outside consulting firm to develop the RFP under the close supervision of RAP staff. The objective was for the consultant to develop the proposal criteria, participate in the proposal analysis, assemble a panel of industry experts to review and grade the proposals and ultimately provide a recommendation as to which proposer should be awarded the contract.
As a rule, the development and execution of an RFP is conducted without public input. This process was different, however, because of intense public interest due to the Greek’s location within a residential area. From the outset, RAP told us repeatedly that public input would be an important part of this particular RFP process.
On January 29, 2014, there was a well-attended public kickoff at Friendship Auditorium to introduce the consultant and the process. The consultant gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining the initial parameters they were looking to build into the RFP (they were still developing the Draft RFP). At that meeting the consultant publically committed to meeting with concerned resident groups before finalizing the RFP. The consultant specifically named the LFIA and the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council as groups that would be consulted. As it turns out, consultation with stakeholder groups was required of the consultant.
For months we waited patiently as the consultant prepared the RFP. During this time the consultant made no attempt to contact us for a meeting. Therefore, all of us were taken by surprise in May when the availability of Draft RFP document was announced, swiftly approved by the RAP Board of Commissioners and readied for release. Little time was afforded us to understand the finalized RFP parameters. We protested about the sudden haste. It was particularly irksome that we had only a matter of days to study the complex RFP and were forced to scramble to understand the implications and make our concerns known before the document was released and the proposal process was off and running. Unfortunately, we were able to have little effect on the final product. The RFP was released by RAP on June 4, 2014 with a proposal submission deadline of August 12.
The Panel’s Decision Is Announced
In November we were all stunned when it was announced that the consultant’s panel had deliberated and rendered a recommendation of Live Nation as the winning bidder and the new RAP GM Mike Schull and his staff had approved that recommendation. Five days later, the RAP Board of Commissioners scheduled a meeting to approve the selection and was equally stunned by the volume of attendees who objected to being excluded from the early process and the final decision.
The public reaction was so intense that the Commissioners postponed their decision, scheduled an additional hearing and posted all proposal related documents online. Only then did we get our first look of the panel’s criteria and scoring. Two additional (massively attended) public meetings ensued before the Commission finally approved the RAP staff recommendation and sent that recommendation forward to City Hall for final approval.
The RAP Recommendation Is Rejected
On January 26, 2015, at a SRO meeting with 700 people attending, the City Council Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and Rivers Committee surprised everyone again, by rejecting the Commission’s recommendation. The motion to reject has yet to be ratified by the full City Council.
Why LFIA Opposes The Recommendation Of Live Nation
Over the years the LFIA has had a long, successful partnership with Nederlander, resulting in collaborative solutions to the very tricky operation of an outdoor concert venue in the middle of an exclusively residential neighborhood.
As many as 75 concerts per year directly affect 1100 households, burden already gridlocked Los Feliz Boulevard, and have the potential to inflict unacceptable (illegal) noise on any given concert night. Concertgoer vehicle ingress and egress through (already heavily travelled) residential streets of Vermont and Hillhurst have been vexing problems. This is particularly so when there are other events in the park or when Los Angeles’ 4th most visited attraction, Griffith Observatory has high volume.
Over the years, we’ve had a representative at the Greek Theatre Advisory Committee, (currently LFIA board director Angela Stewart) and have fashioned a livable solution to most of these problems. The massive turnout, at Friendship Auditorium and City Hall meetings, of directly impacted residents testify to the cooperative and affectionate relationship Nederlander has conscientiously fostered over the years.
The Difference Between The Two Proposals
1. Guaranteed Revenue to The City: For full term rent and performance revenue to the department, a $17-22 million advantage goes to Nederlander/AEG.
2. Capital improvements to the theatre: While the scope of the two proposals is quite similar, there is an approx. $20 million larger investment in the proposal submitted by Live Nation.
3. Facility & operational improvements: Both bidders will improve ticketing, employ comprehensive shuttling services, upgrade food and beverage sub-concessions and bring brand-name restaurants to the venue.
The LFIA Position
Our position, after carefully analyzing the bids and meeting several times with all the proposing entities, is concurrence with the proposed City Council preference of Nederlander/AEG.
- Safety & Community Relations track record: Nederlander has an excellent (and well-earned) performance record in the operation of the venue and community relations. Live Nation, on the other hand, has extensively documented (and often unresolved) safety and community relations issues that plague many of the venues it operates.
- Much needed revenue for the City: The revenue advantage of the Nederlander/AEG proposal will contribute substantially more hard-cash revenue to the Rec and Park department for recreation centers and will help supplement the Park Ranger division citywide. We have long fought for the Rangers, which we consider a vital service to our neighborhood. We are bordered by America’s largest urban park that has a history of home-threatening fires and frequent flare-ups of criminal activity. The Rangers are often, in fact, our first responders.
- A more fitting capital improvement design: After finally getting a chance to analyze the capital improvements proposed by each vendor, we find they are nearly identical in scope (with the possible exception of rebuild/repair of the seating terraces which was listed as an option in the RFP and which Nederlander/AEG have legally agreed to do in the future should engineer assessments find it necessary). Most of the historians on our board feel the light touch of Brenda Levin’s design better honors the historic Greek Revival Style vs. the ultramodern treatment proposed by the Live Nation plan. Besides, there is doubt that the Live Nation concept will ever survive intact through either the Los Angeles Heritage Commission or Department of The Interior historic resources approval processes. Ms. Levin has done a wonderful job of modernizing the Observatory while retaining the integrity of the historic structure as it was originally built.
In conclusion, we have found the Greek Theatre RFP process has been less than inclusive, less than transparent (at the development stage, where it mattered) and a poor model of good governance. We prefer Nederlander/AEG as an already tested and trusted neighbor. Given the similarity in scope of the proposed improvements, we assert that our elected officials have no recourse but to choose the bidder that contributes $17-22 million more to the depleted Recreation and Parks Department budget.
As our great city councilman said at the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River meeting, “The Greek is a magical place and it’s magical because of the Nederlanders”. We agree.