Arts & Entertainment

A look at the venue that could replace Irvine Meadows Amphitheater

Courtesy of FivePoint and Live Nation Entertainment
Courtesy of FivePoint and Live Nation Entertainment

Fans of live music in Orange County could get a new venue in time for next year’s summer concert series.

Developer FivePoint and Live Nation Entertainment announced Tuesday they are partnering to build a 12,000-seat interim stadium next to Orange County’s Great Park to replace Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, which is closing at the end of the month.

The beloved 16,000-seat outdoor venue opened 35 years ago but is being demolished to make way for an expansion of the Irvine Company’s Los Olivos apartment community. News of its demise sparked a grassroots movement to create another outdoor music venue in Irvine. A website set up by supporters — Save Live Music Irvine — has recruited more than 30,000 fans so far, according to a joint statement from the two companies.

“No one likes to close a venue, but we understand, you know, that’s progress,” said Bret Gallagher, president of Live Nation for Southern California. “And it was a great run, and it will be a better run moving forward when we get this place up and running.”

Emile Haddad, CEO of FivePoint, said the new venue could be similar to the America’s Cup Pavilion, which was set up in the summer of 2013 in San Francisco for concerts during the international sailing competition. Preliminary plans call for Irvine's temporary stadium to sit at the end of a runway on the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station base, with 12,000 seats facing the mountains.

FivePoint, which is developing the residential areas surrounding Great Park, is providing the land for up to three years, while Live Nation will design, build and operate the facility, parking and concessions.

The plan is to eventually build a permanent 15,000-seat amphitheater inside the bounds of the park, something that’s been in the works for years and is part of the city’s master plan for Great Park.

“We had been working with the city of Irvine on trying to help them build a permanent facility within the footprint of the Great Park itself. We have some conceptuals for that, but the city has not been able to move fast enough for live performances to stay and not be missed for several seasons,” Haddad told KPCC.

FivePoint has been busy of late trying to live up to its slogan, “Delivered as promised.”

Earlier this month, the company announced it would soon be opening a sports park more than double the size of Disneyland within Great Park at a cost of $250 million.

“We obviously want to see the Great Park built and this amenity completed rather than be staying as, you know, runways and blight in the middle of our project,” Haddad said.

The two companies have submitted their applications but still need final approval from the city.

They appeared to have at least one ally in Irvine City Councilmember Christina Shea, who said she was eager to see the temporary facility completed and move on to discussions of a permanent venue.

“Live outdoor music is so important culturally and economically for Irvine and the region. Having a facility of this size and quality in the heart of this city is a big win for us and all of Orange County,” Shea said in a written statement.

If the plan does go through, the interim venue has big shoes to fill. Irvine Meadows has played host to major artists for decades — Gwen Stefani is headlining the final concert on Oct. 30 — and it has enjoyed the support of a vocal fan base.

Comments from some of the amphitheater’s fans, collected from a “memory wall” inside Irvine Meadows, were shared at the press conference Tuesday.

“Irvine Meadows is a great natural swale, natural amphitheater — hard to replicate, but we’re confident that we’ll make beautiful amenities for fans to really enjoy here,” Gallagher said.