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Audit: Atlanta should revise Lakewood and Chastain contracts with Live Nation

By J.D. Capelouto, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

A lack of revenue specifics and sound monitoring equipment at one of Atlanta’s most popular outdoor concert venues is cause for concern from the city’s audit department and some elected officials.

A new audit, presented to a city council committee Tuesday, included several recommendations for bolstering the city’s leases and increasing oversight of Live Nation, a national concert promotion company that pays to put on shows at Lakewood and Chastain Park amphitheaters, which the city owns.

From 2016 to 2018, the audit found, Atlanta made $4.2 million in revenue from Live Nation, which has a contract to operate at the properties through 2034. Shows at Lakewood and Chastain, which can each hold thousands of concertgoers, have featured major names over the years, ranging from Nicki Minaj to Willie Nelson. Live Nation pays the city $300,000 annually to operate at Chastain and $11,000 monthly for Lakewood; the city also gets a percentage of ticket sales.

But the contracts “do little to protect the city’s interests,” the audit stated.

While Live Nation has provided revenue summaries for each year, it did not provide “detailed documentation” to back up those numbers. The two city departments with oversight over the contracts have also not validated that the revenue amounts are accurate, the audit found. It recommended that the city strengthen its lease by ensuring it can examine Live Nation’s documents like box office statements and ticket manifests.

Another finding from the audit: There is no sound monitoring equipment at Lakewood, though the contract requires sound levels to be monitored. The lease is “unclear about who is responsible for installing the equipment or for monitoring sound levels,” the audit stated.

The auditor’s office recommended the city conduct “routine inspections” of the Lakewood Amphitheater to make sure Live Nation is performing the required maintenance.

In response to the audit, city department managers said they mostly agree with the findings, and said the city would approach Live Nation about implementing some of the recommendations. Remy Saintil, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Enterprise Assets Management, said noise has not been a major issue at Lakewood, and he does not believe Live Nation would agree to pay for sound monitoring equipment.

The audit stated that Atlanta police received 27 noise complaints during events held from 2016 to 2018 at Lakewood, which is located in south Atlanta. Chastain Park is in Buckhead.

“If sound becomes an issue at Lakewood, I would recommend that the city invest in the equipment and the personnel necessary to monitor it as needed,” Saintil wrote.

During Tuesday’s committee meeting, a representative for the city’s law department said they will review the recommendations in the coming months.

City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, whose district includes Lakewood, said the findings of the audit did not surprise her, since she has had concerns about the contracts before.

“We’re going to be working very closely with the departments to talk about how we’re going to really fix this,” Sheperd said.