Live Nation cutting back concerts at Lakewood Amphitheatre in favor of Ameris

This year, only five concerts have been scheduled so far at Lakewood, while there are more than 40 at Ameris.
Imagine Dragons rocked Lakewood Amphitheatre on Tuesday, August 30, 2022 on their Mercury Tour. Macklemore opened the show.
Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Imagine Dragons rocked Lakewood Amphitheatre on Tuesday, August 30, 2022 on their Mercury Tour. Macklemore opened the show. Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For decades, Lakewood Amphitheatre was the most popular outdoor amphitheater for summer acts that could sell at least 10,000 tickets and up to 19,000. A-list performers such as Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, the Dave Matthews Band and Van Halen have performed there.

But in recent years, the space has seen more tumbleweeds than concertgoers.

In 2013, Lakewood operator Live Nation hosted 22 concerts there and as recently as 2018, 21 concerts. By last year, Lakewood only held 13 concerts. This year, while more dates may be announced, the concert promoter has only five concerts scheduled so far at Lakewood: two hip-hop, one R&B and two rock shows.

In comparison, Live Nation is relying heavily on Ameris Bank Amphitheatre 28 miles north in Alpharetta. Last year, Ameris hosted 38 concert dates. This year, Live Nation has already announced 44 concert dates for Ameris, the most in the venue’s 16-year history, with a potpourri of country, pop and rock acts such as Judas Priest, Creed, Alanis Morissette and Lainey Wilson.

Pitbull and Iggy Azalea energized sold out Ameris Bank Amphitheatre on Thursday, October 13, 2022 on the Can't Stop Us Now Tour.
Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The two venues have virtually the same number of seats: 7,000 each. The big difference is the lawn. Lakewood could fit up to 12,000 on its lawn while Ameris accommodates 5,000. Lakewood prohibits chairs on the lawn while Ameris allows what it describes on its website as “low-profile chairs.”

Live Nation, by far the largest concert promoter in Atlanta and the nation, does not own either property. Instead, the Beverly Hills, California-based company has long-term leases with the property owners. In the case of Lakewood, the city of Atlanta owns the property and its lease with Live Nation runs through 2034. Ameris is owned by Woodruff Arts Center, which signed a 20-year deal in 2016 with Live Nation to take over booking acts there.

Live Nation declined to respond to numerous queries about its booking strategies at the two venues. Spokespeople at Woodruff Arts Center did not respond to questions regarding its relationship with Live Nation. A spokesman for the City of Atlanta didn’t provide any comment, either.

Lakewood isn’t particularly beloved by many long-time concertgoers.

John Deushane, an Alpharetta resident and 67-year-old former TV executive who goes to 30 concerts a year, vastly prefers Ameris over Lakewood. The last time he attended Lakewood was in 2014 to see Bruce Springsteen and vowed never to return.

“I’ve long said I will only attend a concert at Lakewood when all four Beatles reunite or it’s the second coming of Jesus Christ,” Deushane said, describing the venue “rundown, dirty, disgusting.”

In comparison, he likes that Ameris has free parking, good acoustics and multiple concession areas run by charity groups but since Live Nation took over in 2016, he said “all prices have skyrocketed” and you can no longer avoid handling fees by buying tickets at the venue.

John and Kelly Deushane at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre July 29, 2022 to see the band Chicago. CONTRIBUTED


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For many residents in the suburbs, there are more options than ever to see summer concerts, such as the Fred in Peachtree City, Stockbridge Amphitheater in Stockbridge and Mable House Amphitheatre in Mableton, without having to negotiate the traffic to get to Lakewood.

It also doesn’t help that the Lakewood area neighborhood has not seen the level of development that some other parts of the city have attracted.

Jeremy Hill, a concert promoter who books Mable House largely with R&B, hip hop and jazz acts, said “some patrons are not comfortable going to that part of town.”

Jeff Clark, who used to run the popular local music magazine Stomp and Stammer, said Ameris is located in a far more desirable area with “numerous restaurants and hotels nearby and it’s closer to most of the fans who’ll be attending those shows.”

“To me, it’s similar to the Braves moving to Cobb,” Clark added, referencing the Atlanta Braves leaving the Summerhill neighborhood in Southeast Atlanta to the Cumberland neighborhood 10 miles northwest in 2017.

Located on a 60-acre tract at the old Lakewood Fairgrounds, Lakewood Amphitheatre was built for $14 million and opened in 1989 with about 20 concerts including Al Jarreau, Elton John, George Strait, Bon Jovi and Tom Petty. Politicians in the city at the time touted its arrival as way to boost that southern part of the city.

“It was the city’s first big mega-amphitheater shed” featuring covered seating, Clark said. “It was a big deal back then. Any big acts touring in the summer played there.”

At the time, Lakewood’s nearest outdoor concert competitors were Chastain Park (6,900 capacity) and Six Flags Over Georgia’s Southern Star Amphitheater (12,000), which required park admission, had no shaded seating and was eventually torn down in 2013.

Different promoters handled Lakewood’s bookings in its early years. Live Nation has been operating Lakewood since 2006 when it purchased HOB Entertainment.

Live Nation also has a long-term lease agreement with Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park, which currently has 15 concerts lined up this year including Sarah McLachlan, Bush, Vampire Weekend and Billy Currington. Last year, Chastain held 28 concerts.

According to an audit the city of Atlanta did in 2020, Live Nation pays the city of Atlanta an $11,000 a month base rent for Lakewood. It also provides the city 3% of ticket sales and 4% of other revenues like food and parking. The current user agreement has been in place since 2009.

Between 2016 and 2022 (excluding the pandemic year of 2020), the city received an average of $578,000 a year from Live Nation for its use of Lakewood, according to data provided by the city. Live Nation had not paid their share in 2023 yet.

Lakewood has also gone through multiple corporate name changes. For many years, Coca-Cola attached its name to Lakewood, followed by HiFi Buys, Aaron’s and Cellairis. Since 2021, Live Nation has not procured naming rights for the venue, which is now just called Lakewood. (The Cellairis name remains on the highway signs on I-75/85.) The city of Atlanta would receive 10% of the net proceeds of naming rights revenue if Live Nation had a corporate sponsor.

The contract with Chastain is different from that of Lakewood, featuring a flat annual base rent, an $8 per ticket surcharge, 50% of net proceeds from naming rights and one-third of parking revenue. Chastain generated more income for the city of Atlanta than Lakewood in all non-pandemic years from 2016 through 2022, averaging more than $840,000 a year.

Clark said it’s not surprising Live Nation so far has booked just two hip-hop shows and two rock shows on top of a 1990s-era R&B show at Lakewood, given the younger and more diverse demographics in the heart of Atlanta compared to Alpharetta and surrounding areas.

This year’s only scheduled concerts so far at Lakewood so far are 21 Savage, T-Pain with T.I., 30 Seconds to Mars, Xscape with SWV and Five Finger Death Punch. A June 8 concert with Boogie Wit Da Hoodie was cancelled in late March without explanation.