Alpine Valley Music Theatre could reopen in 2018

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Neil Johnson
Monday, October 9, 2017

EAST TROY—The management group that runs Alpine Valley Music Theatre says it aims to reopen the outdoor concert venue in 2018 after a year of it being shuttered.

Jon Reens, vice president of Live Nation, which manages Alpine Valley's 27,000-capacity concert venue in rural East Troy, said his group's decision to close Alpine Valley earlier this year was a temporary one, and Live Nation is working to recruit and book music acts to play the venue in 2018.

“Our intention is 100 percent to open in 2018,” Reens told The Gazette.

Alpine Valley was closed this summer and held no concerts for the first time since it opened in 1977. The announcement of the venue's closure early this year came after big music acts that were perennial performers at Alpine Valley had opted to book concerts elsewhere.

It was a stunner for a venue that perennially has hosted some of the premier names in rock and had lured back top-grossing acts such as Pearl Jam, Jimmy Buffett and Dave Matthews Band year after year.

Reens said Live Nation has been sprucing up the 40-year-old venue all summer.

“When we were faced with the difficult decision of whether or not we'd be able to open this season, and the decision was made to stay closed, we started (recruiting acts for 2018) right away,” he said.

Reens said he couldn't talk about specific bookings that Alpine Valley is working on for next year, but he indicated Alpine Valley is working with bands that have played the venue before and with others that haven't.

“It's one of those things that is kind of fluid. We don't just go to a handful of acts and try to have them come play that building. We go out to a number of artists, some who have played there in the past. As we find artists that are available, then really we enter into discussions for them in the availability of venues,” Reens said. “It's dependent on whether the artists make the decision of when and where they're going to be on the road.”

Reens said Live Nation could announce by the end of this year or early 2018 further plans on reopening Alpine Valley, and it would announce any bookings at the venue as soon as it's able.

Live Nation has a hand in more than one venue in the Midwest, including a few in the Chicagoland area.

This year, Dave Matthews, who for years played a show every year at Alpine Valley, opted to play instead this year at Huntington Bank Pavilion, a 30,000-capacity venue Live Nation owns.

Matthews was on a break from work with Dave Matthews Band and instead was playing a series of shows with band mate Tim Reynolds.

Jimmy Buffett, another performer whose stops at Alpine Valley had become an annual phenomenon, booked a stadium show this summer at Wrigley Field in Chicago but not a show at Alpine Valley. Buffett had played Wrigley in 2005.

Reens said such changes in latitude didn't necessarily symbolize a change in performers such as Buffet's overall attitude toward the open-lawn Alpine Valley.

“It wasn't anything emblematic of an overall shift. I don't think there is a change in the thinking as far as trying to redirect to a performance space. Like everybody out there, sometimes you want a change of pace,” Reens said. “It'd be like going to the same place to eat every day. Sometimes you want to go someplace different. A number of artists wanted a change of pace.”

Michael Cotter, director of the Walworth County Department of Land Use and Resource Management, said Live Nation already has submitted a 2018 business license application, a permit it must renew every year.

He said that process is somewhat pro forma and Live Nation submitted the same application late in 2016 year, prior to its decision to shutter Alpine Valley this year.

Live Nation continues to have a zoning use permit to operate a concert venue and an adjacent campground that can accommodate about 3,300 campers at Alpine Valley, Cotter said.

Cotter said Live Nation works with the Walworth County Sheriff's Office in the months leading up to its summer concerts, but he said Live Nation typically does not publicly release the names performers it has booked for shows months in advance.

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