Wolf Creek Amphitheater in South Fulton County. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC File Photo

Live Nation contract with Fulton County will split Wolf Creek profits

A contract with the concert promoter Live Nation to operate Wolf Creek Amphitheater in south Fulton County could bring millions of dollars into Fulton’s coffers, the county’s arts and culture director said.

The 10-year contract, with two five-year renewal options, will allow Live Nation to program the amphitheater, that lost money when it opened in 2011. It has been profitable since 2013 and brought in $450,000 in 2015.

With Live Nation at the helm, Fulton Arts and Culture Director Lionell Thomas said he expects the venue to make $1 million a year.

“I think it’s an amazing partnership,” he said. “As we look to expand the vision of Wolf Creek, this is the path we want to take.”

Fulton County selected Live Nation as its partner in December, but the terms of the contract were just made available this week. Live Nation was one of three bidders to run the amphitheater. No one from the company responded to an emailed request for comment.

According to the contract, the company will keep the first $500,000 the venue brings in to pay for operating expenses. After that, Live Nation and Fulton County will split the profits 50-50.

The county will also get 25 percent of any sponsorship rights, and will have access to use the venue on days other events are not scheduled. Thomas expects Live Nation to put on at least 20 events a year. Naming rights will also be available for the venue.

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said it was a “good deal” with minimal risk for the county to bring a reputable company to manage the facility. He said Live Nation’s relationship with other county venues — like Chastain and Verizon amphitheaters — could allow for “potential synergy.”

“I just think this is a step in the right direction to provide even better service at lesser cost to the taxpayer,” he said.

Fulton’s profits will go right back into a Wolf Creek enterprise fund, used to pay for upgrades to the facility. Those improvements could include enhanced concession areas and more tables in the front of the venue, Thomas said, as well as technical upgrades to the stage that could help Wolf Creek attract bigger names to perform.

Though some residents have flocked to county commission meetings to protest the changes, saying they like the facility the way it is, Thomas said the improvements will be enhancements to Wolf Creek — not a full-scale change to acts or other aspects of the venue.

“It’s not our aim or intent to dramatically alter what’s there already,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everyone. It’s an opportunity to really elevate the facility.”

Late last year, Fulton County released an audit of Wolf Creek that found more than two dozen violations of county policy. They included cash management issues, preferential treatment for some vendors and a ticket-printing practice that gave complimentary access to thousands more people than was allowed, overcrowding the facility. The county attorney’s office continues to investigate the employees at the facility, two of who have filed a whistleblower suit related to a dispute over who had access to the venue’s skyboxes.

Last summer, performers at the 5,300-capacity amphitheater included nostalgia R&B/soul acts like El DeBarge, Doug. E. Fresh, Keith Sweat and Dru Hill. Eaves said he wants to see more “contemporary” performers. Thomas said he hopes Live Nation will bring “a more diverse array of talent.”

“Some people are tired of seeing the same acts, and want to hear something else,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Live Nation will communicate with residents, through a newly formed advisory board, about what happens at the facility. He expects average tickets to be between $35 and $45, and said concertgoers will still be able to bring food and tables into the facility.

“We’re anticipating this will be a great deal,” Thomas said.

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