The Circuit of the Americas was built around one iconic view: The vista from turn one, across downtown Austin. Now the track management are hoping for a second: This morning they announced details of the Tower Amphitheater, and confirmed that Live Nation will be their musical partners.
This morning COTA confirmed details about the venue, which is a pivotal part of their year-round business model. Moreover, they're planning on using live music events over race weekends to stagger what COTA president Steve Sexton called the "exodus" from the site after a race.
Situated right in front of the signature 22-storey viewing tower, the amphitheater will be the largest permanent stage in Austin, and will hold roughly 15,000 people. Construction should be complete by April 2013 – too late for the inaugural Formula One race on Nov. 18 this year, but perfect to catch the beginning of the 2013 live music touring season. Circuit management said this morning they expect the venue to create enough work to equal between 100 and 200 jobs full time jobs over the course of a year.
As for the construction, COTA president Bobby Epstein said the stage "really nestles in nicely" into the track and includes best practices and design elements from iconic outdoor venues like the Hollywood Bowl, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, and Live Nation's massively successful Woodlands Pavilion, just outside of Houston. Epstein said, "It starts significantly below the grade of the park above it, but it gradually rises to the back with permanent seats and a huge lawn seating area."
The deal is no shock, as COTA has always planned a venue as part of their larger campus. In fact, as Live Nation president of North American Concerts South Bob Roux said after this morning's announcement, his firm has been "significantly" involved with the project for a while. He said, "Our first meeting was a few years ago, just as they were getting into the initial design phase of the track." COTA money man Red McCombs and circuit executive vice-president Bruce Knox reached out to him about the technical requirements for a venue.
The partnership makes a lot of sense, if you do a little bit of follow-the-money. McCombs co-founded Clear Channel Communications in 1972, and in 2005 that split into three firms – Clear Channel Outdoor, Clear Channel Communications, and Live Nation. In turn, Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010 to form Live Nation Entertainment. Now Live Nation is a subsidiary formed from that merger, and runs or books over 100 large venues around the US. Roux said he has already had inquiries from bands about playing there and has some holds on the calendar for next year: Expect announcements early February.
However, expect there to be some big calculations today. A lot of mid-large bands bypass Austin simply because there isn't a dedicated 12,000-20,000 venue to play. But what about the Frank Erwin Center, where Live Nation has sporadically booked events like Roger Waters' revival of Pink Floyd's The Wall? Moreover, Live Nation shut down the 20,000 seat Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Selma in 2007, so how will this impact their big venue in San Antonio, the AT&T Center? And the big question: How will Austin's own booking giants C3 Presents respond to this incursion from arguably the nation's biggest players. Roux said, "I've known Charles (Attal), Charlie (Jones) and Charlie (Walker) for a really long time. I've spoken to them about this project, and we'll have to see how things mature from here. However, I hope we have the opportunity to work together on it."
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