East County, welcome to the club: For years, El Cajon and surrounding areas have languished in live-music purgatory, relegated to cover bands at a handful of out-of-the-way dive bars or Lakeside Rodeo fests -- but things are lookin' up.
On Dec. 12, the El Cajon City Council approved a management agreement with Live Nation (the same folks who book massive shows throughout San Diego at Mattress Firm Amphitheatre, Viejas Arena, Valley View Casino Center, House of Blues, etc.) to take over the management and operation of the long-dormant East County Performing Arts Center, which closed in 2009.
"This is a game changer for downtown El Cajon and the entire community," Mayor Bill Wells said. "Live Nation will bring nationally renowned acts to the heart of our city and ECPAC will once again be a premier venue in the San Diego region. These shows will also bring new customers to the city's thriving food and cultural downtown center."
The 1,145-seat venue, which is conveniently located next door to city hall at 210 E. Main St., is set to receive facility upgrades by the city of El Cajon to the tune of $5 million to $6 million during 2018, per the recently signed agreement (the minutes from the City Council's Dec. 12 meeting can be read in full here).
According to El Cajon Assistant City Manager Graham Mitchell, the venue has a "targeted opening in spring of 2019." As for the type of shows that'll be booked, he said that's all up to Live Nation.
"We won’t dictate that," he said via email. "We will allow Live Nation and the market to determine [that]."
The agreement specifies that "Live Nation will schedule a wide variety of bookings that may include performing arts, cultural events, musical acts, film showing, comedy shows, etc." While East County hasn't had a large venue like this to host big live-music shows in a while, Mitchell explained that once they open the doors in 2019, they'll be hitting the ground running.
"The management agreement requires Live Nation, in the first year, to present at least 50 events. By the fifth year of the agreement, that grows to 65 events."
"Live Nation is thrilled to partner with the cty of El Cajon," said Arich Berghammer, executive vice-president of Live Nation’s clubs and theatre division. "This is a great music market. We plan to put our wide array of resources to work in El Cajon by bringing premier, nationally renowned artists to the city. We want to help El Cajon be known as the place to see live entertainment."
The agreement's duration is an initial term of five years, with two additional five-year terms possible. El Cajon will be responsible for paying Live Nation an annual management fee of $375,000 for the initial term of the agreement. However, during that first five years, all operating revenues (ticket sales, rental revenue, concessions, etc.) will go to the city.
One more interesting note: Both Live Nation and the El Cajon City Council advise that the East County Performing Arts Center should be renamed to "reflect a more regional presence," which will come down to a city countil vote later in 2018. Anyone got suggestions?