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City Council may spend $14,124 for VIP season tickets at Live Nation amphitheater, adopt ticket policy

Wilmington's North Riverfront Amphitheater (recently rebranded as the Live Oak Bank Pavilion).
Benjamin Schachtman
Wilmington's North Riverfront Amphitheater (recently rebranded as the Live Oak Bank Pavilion).

The 'VIP table' offered by Live Nation would include four tickets and two parking passes for each of at least 20 shows per season. City staff recommends pairing the deal with a new policy regulating who ends up with the tickets, offering them first to City Council members.

The first of two related items on Wilmington City Council's Tuesday evening meeting is a resolution that proposes buying dedicated seats for the fiscal year 2022 concert season (July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022) using money from the city's general fund.

The second is an ordinance establishing a new policy, allowing the city to use the VIP seats — along with other tickets provided "at face value" by Live Nation — for "economic development, City employee performance recognition, and community development." It also gives City Council members first dibs on using tickets for these purposes.

VIP seats

Live Nation actually already sent an invoice for the seats in early May — the bill describes the seats as a "VIP table," charging $13,200 plus $924 in tax (anyone familiar with Live Nation and Ticketmaster knows there's the ticket price and then there's the real ticket price). The invoice includes four tickets and two parking passes, and ensures at least 20 shows per season — this number is subject to increase at the discretion of the City Manager, according to Live Nation's contract with the city; that's $176.55 per seat with parking (assuming guests carpool with at least one other person).

Invoice from Live Nation for season tickets at a reserved table at the Riverfront Park Amphitheater (a.k.a. the Live Nation Pavilion, formerly the North Waterfront Park).
City of Wilmington
Invoice from Live Nation for season tickets at a reserved table at the Riverfront Park Amphitheater (a.k.a. the Live Nation Pavilion, formerly the North Waterfront Park).

According to Live Nation's seating map, table #30 is at the southern edge of the venue, near the border between seated tickets and the venue's lawn area. These tickets aren't available through Live Nation's regular online portal, so it's difficult to compare pricing (the site redirects you to Live Nation's premium ticket site, which hasn't set up a page for Wilmington yet) — but it's probably fair to say, as VIP seats go, they are among the most humble on offer at this venue.

Seating chart for the Live Oak Pavilion, also known as Wilmington's Riverfront Park Amphitheater.
Live Nation
Seating chart for the Live Oak Pavilion, also known as Wilmington's Riverfront Park Amphitheater.

New ticket policy

The resolution attached to the budget ordinance deals with what the city can do with these tickets — that is, who it can give them to, and for what reasons.

The resolution notes that, in addition to the VIP seats, the new ticket policy will also cover tickets offered by Live Nation to the city at face value for shows at both the Riverfront Park Amphitheater and the Hugh Morton Amphitheater at Greenfield Lake (where Live Nation also has a management contract). That's important, given that tickets for sold-out shows are usually worth significantly more than face-value tickets.

The city can offer its VIP seats, or tickets to (likely) sold-out shows for three reasons, according to the new policy:

  • According to the resolution, "Economic Development" means "[o]ngoing activities determined by the City to increase the population, taxable property, agricultural industries, employment, industrial output, or business prospects of the City." In layman's terms, that means the city can use its VIP or hard-to-find tickets to woo developers and business owners.
  • Next up, there's "Employee Performance Recognition," described by the city as "recognition by the City Manager of employees who have demonstrated a high level of achievement with regard to the City’s core values of service, professionalism, respect, integrity, and safety, or with respect to any other significant job-related attribute, or who have markedly increased customer satisfaction, or been a key contributor in an innovative program that has had positive City or community benefits." In fewer words, it's a way for the City Manager to reward employees.
  • Then, there's "Community Development," described in the resolution as "City support of the public, non-profit, and private sector partners who are actively involved in initiatives designed to address issues impacting the quality of life in Wilmington, including revitalization and empowerment of low-income communities, educational advancement, job development, and youth and cultural enrichment." This is the broadest category, and there are probably myriad people and organizations that fall into it. Basically, it's anyone to whom the city wants to give a 'thank you.'

The policy also includes some other ethical guardrails, including prohibiting the use of tickets for personal gain, barring the reselling (or bartering, raffling, trading, etc) of any city ticket, and stipulating that tickets can't be swapped for other events.

While the ticket policy notes that seats will be offered to City Council members first, it reiterates that they can only use them for the constrained purposes listed above. In other words, council members can't just go see Chicago play in October because they want to, they'll have to explain to the City Manager's office what the public purpose of the tickets will be. (They also can't sneak in family or friends, under the policy — although employees being rewarded for their performance can, with the city manager's permission).

If there's a dispute over which council members get tickets for a particular show, and they can't work it out with the City Manager, they'll have to use a lottery. Conversely, if some or all of the tickets are unclaimed by elected officials, it's up to the City Manager and his executive team.

And, if there are still leftover tickets — unlikely, but not impossible — they'll be offered to the general public, through a randomized system set up by the City Manager.

Unfortunately, even if the resolution and ordinance pass on Tuesday night, city council members and officials have already missed the venue's inaugural kickoff, three nights of Widespread Panic shows. But there's always next year.

Wilmington City Council meets Tuesday, July 20, 6:30 pm at the Wilmington Convention Center, 10 Convention Center Drive. You can provide online comment with this form. Comments received electronically prior to noon on Monday, July 19 will be read aloud at the meeting. Comments received by 10 am Thursday, July 22 will be entered into the record. The meeting will be available for remote viewing via:

Below: The city's proposal to purchase 2021-2022 VIP season tickets and the proposed new ticket distribution policy.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.