On Thursday evening, the Clearwater City Council selected Ruth Eckerd Hall to operate the amphitheater in downtown Clearwater. The council vote was based on three exclusive criteria that could be considered: Demonstrated experience of company and personnel; Project methodology, approach, and schedule; and References. The vote was 3 to 2, with two council members choosing the partnership of Global Spectrum d/b/a OVG360 and Vinik Sports Group.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said, “Ruth Eckerd Hall has been in the community for 40 years, growing the Hall, the Capitol Theatre, education programs in twenty-eight schools, Coachman Park, Tropicana, downtown Tampa Super Bowl, Ladies Final Four, they did a concert in St. Louis for the former Rams for goodness’ sake, Chasco Fiesta, Palladium in St. Pete, the list goes on. Bobby Rossi, frankly, is a legend in the industry. Ruth Eckerd Hall’s been growing and proving themselves for 40 years with their top two employees at the helm for 34 years each. That’s a tremendous tenure and stability. That’s a record of enduring many difficulties in our economy to include the great recession and Covid. These folks aren’t going anywhere, they’re the fabric of our community.”
City Councilmember Lina Teixeira said, “I scored Ruth Eckerd Hall higher than the committee did. Part of their presentation was an approach to noise. It was very well defined and in place already.”
City Councilmember David Allbritton, cast the deciding vote and commented, “Ruth Eckerd Hall has been a great community partner in the arts and I remember years ago, fighting for the need of a waterfront amphitheater and it was REH’s then CEO Zev Buffman who helped lead the charge to make it happen. You know if Zev and Ruth Eckerd Hall weren’t intricately involved then, we wouldn’t have an amphitheater. We’d have a band shell, just like we have now.”
John Valentino, Senior Vice President of AEG Presents, the largest independent concert promoter in the world, told council that Ruth Eckerd Hall’s management is recognized nationally for operational excellence which extends to their many successful outdoor concerts. Charlie Hart, the grandson of Jack and Ruth Eckerd spoke on behalf of the Eckerd family along with many community stakeholders including Ocean Allies, Amplify Clearwater, Clearwater Beach Alliance, Ruth Eckerd Hall Board Members, Clearwater Jazz Holiday and PBS Public Television WEDU, describing Ruth Eckerd Hall as a premier operator and trusted partner.
Susan M. Crockett, Ruth Eckerd Hall President & CEO said, “We have always believed that this venue can be both community-oriented and financially successful. We have decades of experience not sacrificing one for the other. As unique as the Bilheimer Capitol Theater is, this too will have its own energy and be an iconic venue authentic to Clearwater. The new programming opportunities it provides will further cement our city’s national reputation as a destination for live music and entertainment.”
Bobby Rossi, Ruth Eckerd Hall Chief Programming Officer / Executive Vice President of Entertainment commented, “We’re delighted that our organization was chosen. Once we have the go ahead, we’ll hit the ground running. The artists are just as excited about the venue as we are.”
Ruth Eckerd Hall will begin contract negotiations with the City of Clearwater immediately in preparation for a July 2023 opening.
(Featured image credit: The amphitheater is pictured on the left in this rendering of the $84 million Imagine Clearwater waterfront renovation. The park is under construction with a completion target of July 2023.