Few Nashvillians shed tears when Starwood Amphitheater, the city's summer home for aging rock acts and megabuck beer, closed in 2006. But the lack of a shed has been cited as a key reason many arena-level touring bands bypass Music City. A new amphitheater is now on the drafting table — just not the downtown one that some have proposed. From Joey Garrison in the CP:
Metro is considering amending the specific plan for the 65-acre former Starwood Amphitheatre property fronting Murfreesboro Pike — a move that could pave the way for the emergence of a smaller live music venue at the site.
At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard is sponsoring a bill that would allow previously approved uses associated with Starwood Amphitheatre to be temporarily permitted. After Starwood —— which had a 17,000-guest capacity, seating and lawn included —— closed in 2006, zoning of the Antioch-area property was converted to accommodate a proposed mixed-use development. But the project never materialized.
Maynard’s ordinance cleared the first of three votes at Tuesday’s council meeting. The bill has been referred to the Metro Planning Commission, which is set to consider the amendment on Thursday. The planning department’s staff has recommended approval, with the condition that a potential amphitheater be limited to 5,000 seats to ensure traffic doesn’t exceed the level Starwood concerts generated in the past.
Here's Adam Gold, in a Scene cover story earlier this year, laying out why members of the mayor's Nashville Music Council say the city needs an amphitheater:
With the strength of Nashville's festival circuit a factor that plays right into the mayor's vision of Nashville, the council's live music committee has enjoyed an early victory in contracting the National Folk Festival for a three-year run that will begin in 2011.
But perhaps their loftiest endeavor under consideration is the creation of a midsize downtown amphitheater. The 2006 closure of Starwood has cost the city untold amounts of ancillary revenue, not to mention entertainment. Essig estimates the city is losing up to 20 shows a year by not having a proper outdoor venue.
To fill the void, the committee has determined that the city needs a pavilion-style amphitheater with seating for around 8,000 — à la Atlanta's Chastain Park or L.A.'s Greek Theater — to host concerts too small for Bridgestone Arena and too big for the Ryman, in addition to functioning as a venue for events like a Nashville Symphony Summer series and large-scale conventions.
[CAA Vice President Ron] Essig says the goal would be to attract something in the neighborhood of 50 shows per season — likely running April through November — but he adds that they could feasibly host as many as 60 or 70. Multiply that by an average of 5,000 attendees per show, and you've got yourself some downtown revenue, a healthier concert industry and a more congested Lower Broad — assuming this venue ends up nestled on the river, if it ends up anywhere at all. Planners can test the demand with a collapsible temporary venue, an approach that's had success in Boston and Chicago. While the potential cultural and economic benefits of such a desperately needed venue seem overwhelming, Essig says they're going to wait and see what effect the incoming convention center has on the area first.