Less than a week after Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, introduced a motion to direct the Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) to report on its “open venue model” management of the Greek Theatre within 30 days, RAP general manager Mike Shull appeared Monday with a submitted report and answered questions at the council’s arts, parks and river committee hearing.
Shull said RAP will announce at its Sep. 2 board of commissioners meeting that after closing the request for proposals (RFP), the department will nominate SMG – a venue management firm – for the position of oversight manager of the Greek Theatre.
“RAP is prepared to make a recommendation to its board to award the oversight of the Greek Theatre open venue model contract to the highest-ranking proposer, SMG, for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, their detailed and significant response to areas of community concern,” the report read.
RAP said it will be using an “open venue model” when it takes over as operator in November. Shull explained in an earlier interview that open model means one promoter will no longer run the theatre, and all promoters will be allowed an equal chance at event dates and other management opportunities.
Shull explained that RAP set out to solicit services of “an experienced venue management firm” to act as agents – not promoters – to oversee day-to-day operations at the Greek Theatre under the open venue model. One proposal was received from SMG and one from another company, called Spectre.
The report said the oversight firm would work under the direction of RAP staff. The company will have an on-site team comprised of different managers for the theatre’s general operations, booking, events and box office. The Greek Theatre general manager will be responsible for direct and open communications with the community along with a full-time community liaison staffed by RAP.
The responsibilities of the managers also include managing the calendar, sales of sponsorship and box seating, service contracts, coordinating with LAPD and LAFD, monitoring and enforcing sound levels and hosting a monthly meeting with the Greek Theatre Advisory Committee – which will be comprised of community stakeholders.
The report said the open venue model provides the best revenue opportunity RAP has experienced in decades. Shull explained the biggest difference for the city between how the Greek Theatre operates now under Nederlander Concerts and what RAP proposes for a management system will be revenue sharing.
If the Greek Theatre nets 25 percent of what the department projects, it will equal what the city earns from the theatre now.
According to the report, RAP will receive 40 percent of the food and beverage revenue, 75 percent of the box seats and sponsorship revenue, and 100 percent of the parking revenue under the open venue model. Under the current management system, RAP receives six percent of those revenues.
In 2014, the report said, the theatre generated $27,270,564 in gross receipts after 73 events. RAP’s share of that totaled $1,977,313. The department’s anticipated net revenue under the open venue sharing is $3 million for 50 events, and $4.8 million for 70 events.
Ryu’s motion cited seven “areas of community concern” on which he suggested RAP report. They include current traffic and noise mitigation measures; security; infrastructure maintenance and parking and shuttle services; aesthetic quality; public information efforts surrounding RAP’s process in request for proposals (RFP); all options for future management; and constituent concern intake. The report addressed those concerns.
“Integrating community outreach is something we can improve on,” Shull said at the hearing.
According to the report, RAP held an informational meeting on July 13 with representatives from the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, Franklin Hills Residential Association, Los Feliz Improvement District and Hollywood United Neighborhood Council.
“Every document ever produced for the past two years around the Greek Theatre has been posted online,” the report adds. “That includes board and council agendas, actions and reports, RFPs, responses to RFPs and miscellaneous communications.”
The report said SMG intends to continue many of the current practices the community is accustomed to, including coffee hour, Greek Theatre Advisory Committee meetings, direct line of communication with the Greek Theatre manager and a community hotline that will be continuously staffed during events to ensure a resolution is reached on all matters as quickly as possible.
SMG also plans to continue contracts with the current parking and shuttle operations company, SP+ Parking.
“There is no anticipated change from the current operation other than an increase in the number of the shuttles provided from the off-site parking lots and from metro-line,” the report read.
With the noise concern, RAP said things will also stay the same. The current operation uses a house sound system specifically designed for the Greek Theatre and leased from Schubert Systems. SMG plans to continue the lease.
“There should be no noticeable difference in the sound levels inside or outside the venue,” the report read.
SMG has detailed a security plan that includes contracted security officers, off-duty LAPD officers and neighborhood event staff.
Ryu and Shull discussed three community-run concerts that are held at the Greek Theatre, and Shull said that RAP intends to keep those going.
Shull and the report assure there are no plans for expansions, only repairs and renovations, such as improvements to the venue’s seating.
“We got very promising answers. We still have some questions and concerns,” said Ryu’s deputy Estevan Montemayor. “It’s important the quality of life in those neighborhoods remain in tact. We want to stay vigilant of that.”
Montemayor said Ryu’s office is working to acquire more information about the legal limitations or constraints on the authority of city council relative to the self-operation of the Greek Theatre. The office is also hoping to learn more about the budget projections.
Montemayor also said Ryu’s staff will work with RAP to determine what public outreach the operating managers will use from the time they’re selected as manager to the start of the season.
Montemayor said Ryu’s office has met with SMG and Spectre, but the councilman has not decided if he favors one or the other.
“We want to make sure that [Ryu’s office] and the neighboring residents have all the information moving forward with the RFP and management process,” Montemayor said. “This report is going to provide us and the community with that information.”
Members of Los Feliz Improvement Association (LFIA) attended the hearing to voice opinions on the open venue model.
“We’re encouraged that this has been continued and that it will be a long-term plan to watch and monitor as far as what the department is planning,” said Barbara Ferris, LFIA vice president. “We’re doing what we can to protect the neighborhood. We’re extremely glad that David Ryu submitted this motion and that it’s doing the work that it needs to do which is to have reports back and a better understanding of what’s going on.”
LFIA remains opposed to RAP’s self-operation, and has not taken a stance on SMG or Spectre.
Shull said he is confident the open model venue and self-operation will be successful. He said there’s almost no downside to the plan because it would have to come to a complete failure to not make the same amount of money the city has been making under the current contract and operation with Nederlander Concerts. If the city isn’t satisfied with the revenue that comes in, RAP will issue another RFP to return to the way things are run now.
“The interest in the Greek Theatre isn’t going away,” he said. “There’s not harm in doing it this way.”
Shull added that all the decisions RAP staff makes with the Greek Theatre, they are thinking of the quality of life of the neighbors in the area.
“We deeply care about that community,” he said. “Everything we do has the neighbors at the top of the list.”
The committee decided to continue the motion and will resume its examination at the next hearing on Sep. 21.
“I still have reservations and concerns,” Ryu said at the hearing. “We will be continuing to monitor this.”
The report said the recommendation to award the food and beverage contract is expected to be ready in October.
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