MARTINEZ -- The city is moving ahead with plans to stage a concert at the John Muir amphitheater in the fall.

The City Council agreed last month to work with Livermore-based Prime Time Entertainment to put on a concert as a way to gauge interest for a potential summer concert series.

An ad hoc committee including council members Lara DeLaney and Mark Ross, and Gay Gerlack, John Fuller and Karen Bell-Patten of the Park, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission will work out the details for the concert such as picking a date, booking a headliner and recruiting sponsors and volunteers.

The first subcommittee meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

Martinez would be responsible for covering all the expenses for the event, including marketing, the headliner's fee, and sound, lighting and staging equipment rental.

However, the staff hopes to minimize the city's contribution by securing at least $15,000 from corporate sponsors and enlisting nonprofits to supply volunteers to work at the event in exchange for a stipend paid to the organizations.

"The ultimate goal would be to have this be a concert series in the summer that would be self-sustaining through sponsorships, ticket sales and concessions," Mitch Austin, community services contract manager for Martinez, told the council.

At their spring retreat, council members expressed interest in finding uses for the amphitheater, which sits empty most of the time.


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"There's a lot of challenges with it, as you know it's not a turnkey operation. You have to bring in the lights, you have to bring in the stage, you have to bring in the chairs," Mayor Rob Schroder said. "So it's a huge undertaking to get something there. But I am absolutely, 100 percent in favor of exploring those opportunities."

Prime Time Entertainment produces the concert series at Wente Vineyards in Livermore and has put on musical events for companies and cities, including Fremont and San Ramon. The company, which has in-house publicity and production staff, also has booked acts for Main Street Martinez.

Although free concerts with local bands are less expensive to produce, Prime Time Entertainment President Jim Douglas explained it would be difficult to transition to a ticketed show in the future if the council wanted to move in that direction.

Free shows also tend to draw locals rather than people who live outside the area, Douglas added, meaning fewer first-time visitors would be exposed to the city's downtown shops and restaurants.

Booking the right act is the most important element of a successful show, Douglas said. Since artists can command five-figure fees, it's important to try to book acts in conjunction with other noncompeting venues, according to Douglas.

"You really have to put aside personal taste and say, well these 10 artists are on our wish-list but eight of the 10 just don't make sense financially," he said.

Noting the city's experience with the defunct Willows Theatre Company, DeLaney expressed concern about bankrolling another entertainment venture.

"I'm just concerned that we may be overreaching and getting ourselves into a cost situation that we really can't afford unless the city subsidizes it," she said. "I'd love to see our corporate sponsors step up and provide the funding but, you know, other cities rely on that as well."

Contact Lisa P. White at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.

Contact Lisa P. White at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.