For sale: Concert amphitheatre/"shed" in Chicago's south suburbs. Spacious
lawn, numerous chairs, plentiful bathrooms, lots of parking. Price: Best
National concert giant Live Nation confirmed Thursday that the First
Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park is listed for sale with commercial
real estate brokers CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. But Mark Campana, president
of Live Nation Midwest Music, stressed that the company is just trying to
get a sense of what the property is worth, and that the 30,000-capacity
venue may not close any time soon.
"I'll put it this way: We're holding [potential concert] dates for 2008,"
Campana said. "It will be an expensive transaction," if the sale happens at
all, "and transactions like that don't happen overnight."
Last September, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino ordered regional officers
to examine the profitability of their largest sheds. As a result, Live
Nation has listed for sale venues near Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio, and
Sacramento, Calif., in addition to the FMBA, and last month it sold the
65-acre Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville, Tenn., to a residential
"Where the business is of lesser value than the property itself, that's
where Rapino has said to us, 'Look to sell those assets,' " Campana said.
"The difficult part is that the [concert] business we have in Tinley Park is
still very profitable for us, but the property values in Tinley Park have
grown significantly. The only way for us to evaluate it was to bring it to
market to find out, 'Is there a developer out there?' "
The 110-acre site is zoned for industrial use and would require a
variance for residential construction. "That's absolutely not part of our
master plan," Tinley Park economic development director Ivan Baker said.
"We're encouraging the owner to maximize the value of the property for the
benefit of our community. Our intention is to encourage commercial
development and broaden the tax base."
Campana admitted that Live Nation has some redundancies in the Chicago
market, since it also operates the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy,
Wis. (capacity 35,000) and the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island
(capacity 8,000). Starting next summer, it also will compete with the
Prairie Creek Amphitheatre (capacity 10,000), which its archrival Jam
Productions plans to build in Hoffman Estates. Public hearings for that
project begin next month.
For the last decade, top musical acts have increasingly avoided the large
sheds in favor of indoor arenas or smaller "boutique sheds" such as Charter
One or the proposed Prairie Creek. Charter One has a busy schedule this
summer, but the FMBA is hosting only 13 shows. Its most successful seasons
in years past had 30.
Opened in 1990 as the World Music Theatre, the shed became the Tweeter
Center in 2001 and the FMBA in March 2006. It frequently has been criticized
by artists and concertgoers for its sterile environment, sketchy acoustics
and poor sight lines, the result of two tiers of corporate sky boxes built
to maximize top-dollar ticket prices.