Alpine Valley operator Live Nation eyes camping expansion for music venue

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Andrea Anderson
Friday, July 18, 2014

EAST TROY—The operator of Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy is considering ways to bring in thousands of camping concert goers, a Walworth County official said.

Michael Cotter, director of the county land use and resource management department, met with Live Nation representatives two weeks ago to discuss how Alpine Valley, W2699 County D, could compete with other entertainment venues.

Last week, one of only three artists booked at Alpine Valley this summer dropped the venue.

Representatives want to make the venue more of a destination than a place where people arrive and leave the same day of a concert, Cotter said.

National music festival names such as Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Coachella in California were thrown around in the conversation two weeks ago, Cotter said.

Think Jimmy Buffett tailgates but with tents and overnight.

“I don't want to alarm people and have them think Coachella is coming to Alpine Valley,” Cotter said. “We're a long way from that.”

The idea of adjusting zoning regulations to allow for something like the camping situations at other music festivals was talked about at length, Cotter said, but Live Nation has not taken any steps to make it happen since the conversation.

Camping isn't a new idea for Alpine Valley.

On Feb. 17, 2011, the county approved a conditional use permit that allowed up to 450 campers on 75 sites at the venue. Because Live Nation didn't use the permit within three years, it expired in February 2014. Representatives said it wasn't cost effective to try camping under the conditions imposed by the county, Cotter said.

Mark Campana, co-president of Live Nation's North America concerts, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in May that camping could be a “game changer” for the venue and expand the two to three shows a year to as many as 10.

But Campana told the Journal Sentinel the community is wary of campers because of previous incidents of fans camping in people's backyards and parking in the middle of the road.

The county's conversation with Live Nation came shortly before the Under the Influence of Music Tour featuring hip-hop artists Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy and more all-star artists canceled its Aug. 9 performance at Alpine Valley. The reason given was “unforeseen circumstances with production,” according to Live Nation.

The North American tour kicks off July 24 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and ends Aug. 24 in Irvine, California.

The string of hip-hop artists still plan to take the stage Aug. 5 at Tinley Park in Chicago.

Rapper Tyga, one the tour's main performers, announced via Twitter that he was no longer going to be a part of the tour because he's finishing up his album and a movie he's filming.

The Gazette was not able to reach Live Nation representatives for comment.

Alpine Valley has hosted such performers as the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam and Coldplay but has seen a dwindling number of performers over the years.

This summer, only three shows--including Under the Influence tour--were booked, all for August. Remaining are the annual Jimmy Buffett concert Aug. 23 and KISS and Def Leppard on Aug. 15.

Last year, three artists--Dave Matthews Band, Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Buffett--performed, according to the venue's Live Nation webpage.

For Live Nation to be allowed to have more campers and extend hours of operations and host events such as Bonnaroo, the promoter would need several changes in town and county permits and zoning and event permission, Cotter said.

The amphitheater and surrounding lawn seating can accommodate about 35,000 people. Until 1993, Alpine Valley was the largest theater in the United States, according to an Alpine Valley website run by fans.

Cotter recalled attending the Monsters of Rock Tour in 1988. In the three-day kickoff at Alpine, Van Halen, Metallica and other rockers performed and MTV broadcasted live, Cotter said.

“In the '80s and '90s, that was the place,” Cotter said. “They kicked off huge concert tours at Alpine.”  

Refunds for the Under the Influence show at Alpine Valley are available at the point of purchase. Call Ticketmaster at 800-653-8000 for assistance.

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