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Jazzing the Amphitheatre

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THRILL GONE: But city has a plan.
  • THRILL GONE: But city has a plan.

The Little Rock parks department has a plan to make significant capital improvements to the Riverfest Amphitheatre, according to Assistant City Manager Bryan Day. The plans call for improved roof and support structures and include additions that will allow the amphitheater to become more of a year-round venue, Day says. The city is currently exploring funding, including sale of naming rights.

This comes after a four-year, largely moribund period for live concerts in the amphitheater that coincided with the end of Butch Stone's exclusive management contract. Day notes that there have been more community festivals as well as other events like birthday parties and group meetings, but concedes that “without a full-time promoter that knows that venue, it is a hard place to do a show.” During his tenure at the amphitheater, Stone provided all the necessary support staff — crew, security guards, electricians, ticket-takers — to handle shows. Even with a $5,000 rental rate that's significantly below market rate, without a support staff, outside promoters are reluctant to come to the amphitheater. Plus, as Day points out, there's a hole in the amphitheater's roof (by design), no ticket booth and the house production facilities are “somewhat limited.”

Mark Webre, deputy director at the parks department, said the operating plan after improvements are made is still up in the air. But he said he doubted the city would return to an exclusive management arrangement. He said the city hopes to move forward on financing next year.

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