For the last three-and-a-half decades, Pelham's Oak Mountain Amphitheatre has been a staple of North Shelby County and holds the distinction of being the biggest outdoor music venue in Alabama.
But it might be moving to Birmingham, according to a proposed project that could cost up to $50 million.
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.
Jefferson County Commission president Jimmie Stephens said that Live Nation, the current owners of Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, asked the commission to make a one-time $5 million contribution to the project.
The money would come from the county's economic development fund, which dedicates $10 million annually through a special sales tax.
The City of Birmingham and the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex would also make equivalent contributions. The BJCC would also borrow $30 million over 30 years to fund the rest of the cost of construction.
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. He did say they have been working on this for some time, but it's now requiring actionable steps.
The first step, he said, would involve the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visor Bureau (BCVB) to relinquish the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) they received from the Weston and Sheraton, the two hotels on the BJCC campus.
"What is needed and necessary to consummate this deal is for the BJCC to reclaim those PILTs and to place them and dedicate them to the debt service so we can construct this generational change that would occur in the BJCC campus and would be a great addition to the Protective Stadium," Stephens said.
Stephens said the advantage to the move would be to have all the BJCC entertainment venues in the same place, thereby putting Birmingham on the map with Nashville and Atlanta as a stopping point for national acts.
He said that Birmingham used to be known as a convention hub, but the convention industry didn't really recover from the hit it took during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pelham released a statement claiming that the statement was a surprise to city officials but reassured that the project, at this point, is "just a proposal." The Pelham City Council on Monday even 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."
Stephens said he talked to Pelham mayor Gary Waters yesterday, who he discovered had been kept out of the loop.
"I'm sure [Live Nation] will work with the City of Pelham because they've been good corporate citizens down there for the past three decades," Stephens said. "I don't think they would want to abruptly end that relationship."
Stephens said he's been working closely with individuals in both the private and public sectors, including Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.
"It's going to be great for the community if, indeed, it comes to fruition," Stephens said. "Many steps are going to have to be taken. Each is dependent on the successful completion of the previous. We hope that we can continue to work together and to bring other great projects for Jefferson County."
Some of the commissioners, however, expressed concern about the project.
"What is the infrastructure surrounding this project that's going to allow for it to be a guaranteed success?" asked Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales at the work meeting. "Building a building, building a project requires funding. But it's got to be successful in order for it to make sense."
The commission took no formal action on the project.
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