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VENUE NEWS: Freedom Hill Amphitheater Granted Last Minute Liquor License … And Much More!

Freedom Hill Amphitheater in Sterling Heights, MI will be granted its liquor licenses for the remainder of the 2002 season, beginning June 21 for the Sugar Ray concert. After two days of testimony before Federal Court Judge Nancy Edmunds, the City of Sterling Heights decided not to continue their arguments, and approached the operators of Freedom Hill and offered to issue the liquor licenses. This settlement offer by the city came shortly after a news conference was held at Freedom Hill with several charitable organizations, who were severely financially impacted by City Manager Steve Duchane's refusal to issue the one-day liquor licenses.

The licenses benefit charities like, "Conductive Education", "The Debra Foundation" and "The Muscular Dystrophy Association". Last summer, Freedom Hill Amphitheater donated more than $230,000 to the above organizations and several others.

Eric Brenner of "Conductive Education" was elated that his group would benefit from the moneys raised through liquor sales at Freedom Hill Amphitheater this summer. "I'm just happy the city finally did the right thing," he said. "Our children are depending on this money, and now we'll be able to carry on with many of our programs."

Hank Riberas of Freedom Hill Amphitheater said, "The charities were counting on us, and I'm pleased the city finally did what they should have done all along."

Faulty Transformer Blamed For Spears Concert Cancellation

The cancellation of Britney Spears' June 14 concert at the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas was caused by the overheating of the venue's main transformer, according to Jim Bush, the building's technical director. "What happened is we went by the specs that the building had when it opened (three years ago)," he told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "We just had an equipment failure. What can I tell you? Transformers sometimes fail. This one did…It's a blessing we had 14,000 people in here and everyone went home safe.

Because of the power demands, Bush said they brought in an additional 400 amps over what they were rated (via two additional transformers). The arena's transformer capabilities are 2,600 amps of power.

"This is as big a concert, in terms of power demands, as you're ever going to get anywhere. It stretches everything to the limit. We stretched everything, and equipment failed," he said. "We're going back to the original drawings and we'll be back on line, and improved, by next week. We'll be ready to go long before the Eagles' (June 28) concert takes place here."

Bush said that concert promoters Concerts West told them they "went above and beyond, that we'd done everything we promised, and that they would not hesitate a second in bringing another show back here.

"We've spent years building a good, solid reputation for this arena in Lubbock (on the campus of Texas Tech)," he added. "We want to keep that. We take it real seriously."

Arena officials are trying to work out a replacement date and a ticket refund plan.

Naming Rights Sold to Denver's CityLights Pavilion

Denver-based Universal Lending has acquired the naming right to the new 5,000-seat CityLights Pavilion, built next to the Pepsi Center in Denver. Financial terms for the three-year deal were not disclosed. The outdoor venue will be called Universal Lending CityLights Pavilion.

The facility debuted June 14 with a Barry Manilow concert.

Cirque du Soleil, MGM Mirage Form Partnership

Cirque du Soleil and MGM Mirage have entered into a partnership to present two new "hybrid" projects in Las Vegas – one at New York-New York and one at MGM Grand, set to premiere in Las Vegas in 2003 and 2004, respectively. These new shows will play alongside Cirque du Soleil's two shows that are already playing – Mystere at Treasure Island and "O" at the Bellagio hotel. They will also explore new ventures worldwide.

"This partnership is built on the mutual success achieved by our two businesses throughout the past decade," said J. Terrence Lanni, chairman of the board/CEO of MGM Mirage. "Cirque du Soleil proved that it had an excellent understanding of Las Vegas by fundamentally changing the form of entertainment here with their groundbreaking artistic vision first with Mystere and then with 'O'. Now we want to work together to explore new areas in which they can continue to cultivate their unique creativity not only in Las Vegas but throughout our projects in the U.S. and around the world."

"Guy Laliberte, president/CEO and founder of Cirque du Soleil, added, "MGM Mirage has an excellent grasp of the creative strengths and energy that drive Cirque du Soleil. We have always held fast to our dream of reinventing other forms of entertainment. Terry Lanni and his team have confidence in us and are assisting us to do so. We have set out to stimulate the imagination, fire the senses and touch the emotions of spectators around the world.

"The potential of Las Vegas is still vast," he continued. "Some 36 million people visit the city each year and we believe there is room for continued growth to encourage them to take the opportunity to see shows as part of their Las Vegas experience."

"Whatever the creative niche we're developing may be, we are committed to maintaining the level of quality and creativity associated with the Cirque du Soleil brand," offered Lyn Heward, president/CEO of the Creative Content Division. "Cirque du Soleil has always put creativity at the heart of all production and management activities. Creativity is the very essence of Cirque. "

The New York-New York project, opening next year, will take a new look at traditional music hall shows. Sensual, exotic and provocative, the show will feature a blend of dance, humor and acrobatics. It is being developed under the leadership of French Director Philippe Decoufle and Director of Creation Andrew Watson.

"Each of the scenes in this show promises a high-caliber sensual and artistic experience," explains Heward. The theater of the New York-New York hotel will be rebuilt to house the show in 2003.

The second project at the MGM Grand, opening in 2004, "will shake the spectator's perception of space, conception of the law of gravity, and comprehension of the world in three dimensions." Robert Lepage, a key figure in Canadian theater, will direct the show, Guy Caron will serve as Director of Creation. "We hope to offer spectators an experience that's larger than life," says Heward.

This year Cirque du Soleil is simultaneously presenting, on tour in North America: Varekai, Dralion, Quidam and Alegria; on tour in Europe: Saltimbanco; at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando: La Nouba; at Treasure Island in Las Vegas: Mystere; and at Bellagio in Las Vegas: "O".

Kroenke Sports Entertainment To Buy Paramount Theatre?

The concert booking dispute between Kroenke Sports Entertainment, owners of the new Universal Lending CityLights Pavilion on its Pepsi Center property, and Randall Ship, owner of the Paramount Theatre, appears to have been resolved. The two parties are in discussion concerning the sale of the theater to Kroenke Sports, reports the Rocky Mountain News.

Two months ago, Ship was was trying to stop Kroenke from building the 5,000-capacity outdoor venue (CelebrityAccess, April 16).

"Basically, the dispute has been settled," Ship said. The paper reports that Ship has dropped his petition, but said he has an agreement with Kroenke not to comment further.

"We are looking at the building and are very interested in buying it, but we have no deal yet," said David Ehrlich, executive vice president of Kroenke Sports Enterprises. "We do think it is a terrific venue. We'll know better what we're going to do in a couple of weeks or so."

According to Ehrlich, if the deal goes through, neither venue would be shut down. "We've said all along we don't think they compete with each other and both are terrific."

Outspoken promoter Barry Fey, who heads House of Blues' Denver operations which has an exclusive booking contract to book shows at the 2,100-seat Paramount, thinks otherwise.

"If they're smart, they'll turn the lights out at CityLights," said Fey.