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Pelham Mayor Gary W. Waters spoke to 1819 News on Thursday about the proposal brought before the Jefferson County Commission to replace Pelham's Oak Mountain Amphitheatre with a new facility in Birmingham.

At a Jefferson County Commission work session on Tuesday, the new amphitheater project was presented to county leaders. The proposal suggested rebuilding the amphitheater in North Birmingham, where Carraway Hospital used to be located.

The proposed venue would seat 8,900 to 9,000 people and be located just a couple of blocks North of Protective Stadium.

Waters said he found out about the deal only after it was brought up to the Jefferson County Commission. He said he called Jefferson County Commission president Jimmy Stephens immediately after.

In an interview with 1819 News on Wednesday, Stephens said he did not know Waters was being kept out of the loop until he received the call.

"It's like I just envision being married for 35 years, and you find out on TV that your wife wants a divorce," Waters said. "[I]t's been kind of a feature of Pelham."

Nevertheless, Waters said Pelham isn't "freaking out" like some might think they are.

"Think about what happened in Hoover with the Barons," Waters said. "Birmingham Barons started downtown. They went to the suburbs. They'd been there a long time, and they got enticed back to Birmingham. It appears to be the same thing that's happened with the amphitheater. It's business. It's not personal."

He also said he doesn't blame the officials in Jefferson County for wanting the theater.

"I harbor no ill will toward anybody in Jefferson County," Waters said. "... I can be disappointed at the potential loss of a business, but I understand it's business, and there's no need for me to be upset about it."

According to Waters, rumors about the amphitheater leaving are nothing new and happen every three to five years.

Waters said he suspects that the plan is premature. He claimed Live Nation, the company that owns the amphitheater and is negotiating with Jefferson County, is "walking back" on a few comments that were made.

"Sometimes you float information out as a tactical move to see what the feedback would be for such a prospect," Waters explained. "It happens all the time. It appears to me that it wasn't supposed to come out when it did."

Waters said that he was told that the negotiations started over a year ago but had been assured by Live Nation in the last year that everything was fine.

"We've always supported Live Nation," Waters stated. 

Earlier this week, Pelham released a statement pointing out that the Pelham City Council on Monday voted to make improvements to one of the access roads to the original amphitheater. 

Pelham officials said Live Nation recently invested a large sum of money into improving Oak Mountain Amphitheatre and "emphasized its commitment to its operations in Pelham."

Waters said the proposal would not affect Pelham's plans for the road construction.

On Wednesday, Stephens suggested Live Nation's interest in moving the venue was due to the flooding at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. However, he did not want to say for sure.

Waters said that the amphitheater has been flooding ever since it was built because it was constructed on cheap land. There was a large flood over a year ago that did damage to the amphitheater.

"There's nothing that can be fixed about it," he said.

Despite the flooding problem, Waters said he thinks when all is said and done, Live Nation will choose to stay.

"I think they're going to look at the big picture," Waters said.

"They're going to look at the difference between the crime rate between Pelham and North Birmingham," he added. "And, in the end, I feel certain they'll make the right decision. If they stay in Pelham, that's great. If they move on, I'll hate it. But, you know what? We'll survive."

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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