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    Amphitheater at Clark County: Coldplay Venue Ready To Sound Off

    With 10 concerts booked for this summer, The Amphitheater at Clark County will at least match last year in terms of the number of events. More shows could be added as the season plays out, though, and chief executive officer Dan Braun says he's optimistic the 18,000-seat venue finally is on an upswing.


    "Based on 365 days ago, I feel better about the future," Braun says. "I like the acts (coming this year). It's a good selection, with some pretty big marquee names."


    Nine Inch Nails, an industrial rock band revolving around the musical whims of founder and frontman Trent Reznor, is the first offering of the season, at 7 p.m. Saturday. There will be two concert series this summer, one planned, one inadvertent. The first is a three-day stretch of classic rockers: Steely Dan (July 27), Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (July 28) and Tom Petty (July 29). The second is an officially packaged country festival, featuring Clay Walker (Sept. 15), Kenny Rogers (Sept. 16) and Carrie Underwood (Sept. 17).


    "There's just a great country market here," Braun says. "The concept is to have longer days (of music), more things to do, make it a little more interesting than just going to three separate concerts."


    Various issues -- from overspending of the construction budget to kinks in the traffic plan to not being able to attract the top acts on tour -- have created a worrisome pattern for the amphitheater, which is privately operated by a New York-based company, Q Prime.


    When the venue was being pitched to the county -- which leases the land adjacent to the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds to Q Prime as a way to raise money for other projects -- the amphitheater was projected to average 40 concerts a season and 400,000 fans.


    Last year, the total of 10 concerts was down from 16 the year before. But that wasn't the only alarming number for the operators. Overall attendance dropped from 111,300 to 58,200, and in turn the capacity of seats filled slid, from 39 percent to 32 percent. Attendance per concert started at 8,000 patrons per show in the venue's debut season and then dropped to 7,000 in 2004 and 5,820 in 2005.


    Half of the shows last year attracted fewer than 5,000 people, including three concerts that represented record lows for the venue: Tori Amos, 2,100, FishFest with Third Day, 2,400, and Gigantour with Megadeth, 2,100.


    The best-attended concert of the season was Coldplay, attracting 10,100 patrons. In 2004, the top show was Aerosmith (13,100). In 2003, the venue had its only sellout, Jimmy Buffett. But three shows so far in the 2006 lineup have a reasonable shot, considering their track records, at going over 10,000: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Tom Petty and Def Leppard/Journey.


    One of the biggest disappointments in the booking this year, Braun says, was that Pearl Jam has decided to perform twice at The Gorge Amphitheatre, near the central Washington community of George, and not make a stop in Ridgefield. Pearl Jam, the biggest rock band based in the Northwest, has yet to play the local venue.


    Braun says the Amphitheater at Clark County would love to have the group perform here, but that there "wasn't even so much as a negotiation. That's what (the band) wanted to do."


    Meanwhile, some of the largest tours of the summer aren't playing outdoors, Braun says, such as Madonna as well as husband-wife team Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. So when he looks at the lineup he's amassed, he says he feels relatively satisfied with the outlook.


    "We had five massive shows last summer, and five that people were not interested in," Braun says. "I like this (year's) 10 better than I liked last year's 10. It feels like there is more depth and more chances for successful shows. ... We'll see what happens."


    Source: http://www.columbian.com

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