The following is an excerpt from a letter recently sent to members of the Atlanta City Council by the Chastain Park Civic Association regarding issues with the pending lease renewal for Chastain Park Amphitheater.
The Chastain Park Civic Association (CPCA) represents the 2,000 homes surrounding the Chastain Park Amphitheater.
Over the last few months, we have conveyed various concerns regarding the lease extension to Commissioner George Dusenbury at the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, as well as some of our elected representatives. We want to describe for you the most significant unresolved concerns we have.
We do not oppose the amphitheater. Rather, we want only that there be appropriate safeguards so that the right of the neighbors to the enjoyment of their property is not abused.
Finances – The CPCA has urged the city for years to review the rental rate, with the goal being to obtain fair and reasonable rent from the tenant. The original lease was the product of the Bill Campbell era, and we note the widely held concern that the original rental rate (and the rental rates provided for as part of any extension) might have been the product of a favorable deal for a good friend of the administration.
The proposed extension is for 10 years – a lengthy period – but we are unaware of any studies performed by the city to confirm that the rental rate is reasonable. In contrast, we have identified two similar facilities (outdoor amphitheaters) that have better rental rates. Denver, Colo., and Cary, N.C., charge approximately 11 percent of gross ticket sales, which would correspond to a $1,200,000-plus rental rate and Chastain receives a rental rate of $275,000 per year plus ticket surcharges.
We also have been told that no one other than the current Venture would be interested in renting the amphitheater. The ability of Cary, N.C., to find a competing tenant proves this statement incorrect.
In considering the lease extension, we urge the City Council to ask:
- What have you done to validate the rental rate?
- Why, if the market is not competitive, is the city proposing a 10-year extension rather than the five-year extension?
- By providing the Venture a portion of the naming-rights income, and not requiring the same level of capital improvements that the original lease required, is not the city actually reducing the net rental cost to the Venture?
Sound level – The CPCA expressed concerns that the 2005 sound study failed to set a limit on overall sound. The CPCA has presented to the city data that shows the overall sound level has doubled in the period from 2005 to 2009, The city has not responded to this data. We also have asked the city for an independent sound study. This request has been denied.
Traffic – On some sold-out concerts, there is no available parking for patrons. With no place for parking the traffic in the community becomes a gridlock, on West Wieuca Road, Lake Forrest Drive or Powers Ferry Road – three critical roads
Abandoned Dates/Number of Concerts – The ASO has functionally abandoned 15 dates at Chastain as it has expanded its Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre business. The impact of the decrease in ASO events has been significant, and the lesser frequency of events has improved our overall quality of life. The ASO concerts were of the lowest impact on the Chastain community. Will they be replaced with higher-impact concerts?
We urge the City Council to ask: What are you doing to moderate the impact on Chastain residents due to Traffic, sound, and the mix of concerts?
The original contract has changed little since it was signed under the Campbell administration other than the surcharges added over the years. We believe that it is appropriate for it to change more significantly as part of an extension.
Chastain Park Civic Association Amphitheater Committee:
John Williams, Bill Kasper, Brink Dickerson and Steve McClelland