Who's got one...venue?

June 8, 2007


For sale: Concert amphitheatre/"shed" in Chicago's south suburbs. Spacious lawn, numerous chairs, plentiful bathrooms, lots of parking. Price: Best offer.

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 developer.

"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.