The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized Live Nation Entertainment to hold four electronic dance shows a year at the venue, which will inject more revenue into county coffers and increase activity at the underutilized amphitheater, the largest outdoor amphitheater in the nation.
The county will amend its 25-year contract with Live Nation to allow the company to keep the amphitheater open until 2 a.m. for each electronic dance show event.
Live Nation will pay the county an initial, one-time fee of $5,000 for startup costs and then $1,500 for each event, for a total of $6,000 a year.
Bret Gallagher, president of Live Nation's Southern California and Las Vegas divisions, said the entertainment company has been taking advantage of the robust electronic dance market in the last year, acquiring the pre-eminent promoters Creamfields, based in the United Kingdom, and Hard Events out of Los Angeles.
"We've really been ramping up within the last year, identifying the genre and seeing how it fits with our business plans and growth opportunities," Gallagher said.
He said the San Manuel Amphitheater is a nice fit for such events due to its abundant space and the surrounding hills which serve as a good noise buffer.
"It's a beautiful venue, and it's one of our venues that we have a long contract with and is far away from major communities," Gallagher said. "It's got a big beautiful lawn, a big stage area and lots of parking and concessions."
Live Nation will fund two additional sheriff's deputies for the events and a helicopter will be deployed to monitor them from the air, said Keith Lee, director of the county's regional parks department.
"We have every confidence that our officers can handle the situation and that Live Nation, with their security team in place, will be able to handle it," Lee said, adding that Live Nation has also agreed to repair any damages at the amphitheater caused by patrons.
He said Live Nation's first electronic dance show at the amphitheater, which will be some time in March, will be closely monitored.
"We will watch very carefully this first event . . . to see if there are any problems, to see what needs to be done so it can make a comfortable environment for the people who are attending and making this something they want to do again and again," Lee said.
Gallagher would not say whether Live Nation's decision to hold the events at the San Manuel Amphitheater instead of the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino had anything to do with the city's recent conflict with Nocturnal Wonderland promoter Pasquale Rotella and Insomniac Events.
The city is poised to take aggressive action against the Nocturnal Wonderland promoters and the National Orange Show Events Center after their failure to address ongoing complaints of noise, rampant drug use and sales and public safety issues, officials said.
During the Escape from Wonderland event in October, promoter Pasquale Rotella refused to turn the music down, Police Chief Robert Handy said.
"The promoter was receiving a lot of negative feedback that the music wasn't loud enough, and they felt they were going to lose money, so they refused to turn the music down," Handy said. "They basically told us `you do what you want to do but we're going to do what we have to do to turn a profit."'
At Rotella's Nocturnal Wonderland event in September, an altercation erupted between several police officers and patrons when the officers tried to arrest someone who sold the drug ecstasy to an undercover officer, Handy said.
"Raves without drugs are like rodeos without horses. They don't happen," said City Attorney James Penman, who said he now feels confident the city can use narcotic and nuisance abatement actions to vacate the city of electronic dance shows at the National Orange Show.
But he hopes it doesn't come to that.
Jennifer Forkish, spokeswoman for Insomniac Events, would not comment on the problems city officials say are spurred by the Wonderland-themed events, or whether those problems are related to Live Nation's decision to host electronic dance shows at the San Manuel Amphitheater.
"It has been our long-standing policy not to discuss venues until tickets are on sale and talent has been secured," Forkish said in an e-mail. "What I can tell you is that Insomniac has enjoyed producing shows at the National Orange Show for over a decade and we look forward to holding future events there."
The county can terminate the contract at any time, county spokesman David Wert said.