For The Fourth Year In A Row Cumberland County Fines Clear Channel Entertainment

FAYETTEVILLE, NC (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — For a fourth year in a row, Clear Channel Entertainment will pay Cumberland County penalties for failing to book enough events at the Crown Coliseum.

This year’s fine is $105,000, almost double last year’s amount.

According to The Fayetteville (NC) Observer Clear Channel Entertainment has an agreement to book 15 concerts and other shows at the coliseum complex, but it comes up well short each year.

The shows are in addition to independent acts, such as comedian Jerry Seinfeld and singers Olivia Newton-John and B.B. King, that the Crown Center attracts.

For the year ending Sept. 30, Clear Channel brought two shows over three days, for a total of three events — the Harlem Globetrotters in March and a motorcross event in June.

“Obviously, we are disappointed that it has not proven to be feasible for Clear Channel to successfully book shows,” said Rick Reno, the Crown Center’s chief executive officer.

Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, is considered a giant in the live-concert business. It owns radio stations, billboards and amphitheaters, including Alltel Pavilion in Raleigh.

When the county commissioners approved a deal involving Clear Channel five years ago, they had hoped to lure more events to a mostly dark coliseum.

The goal never materialized, and the county paid a $250,000 buyout to end one agreement with Clear Channel and renegotiated the current booking deal, which is set to expire next year, to include penalties.

The agreement is technically with Arena Ventures, a partnership between Clear Channel and the National Basketball Association, which owns the Fayetteville Patriots, who play at the Crown.

Clear Channel officials have not talked to the media about the penalties the past three years.

Harvey Benjamin, an NBA employee who handles legal matters for Arena Ventures in New York City, had not seen the county’s invoice for the $105,000 fine.

“Whatever it is, it’s going to be paid,” Benjamin said.

Ray Yeoung, a public relations consultant for Clear Channel in New York, declined to answer questions about the penalties. He said Clear Channel is in the midst of a reorganization that will spin the company’s entertainment division to CCE Spinco Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Clear Channel.

Members of the Cumberland County Civic Center Commission have complained that it’s cheaper for Clear Channel to pay the fines than book money-losing acts.

Clear Channel’s main source of revenue from the coliseum would be from ticket sales.

Commissioner Kenneth Edge, one of the liaisons to the Civic Center Commission, said he was glad the county would get some revenue out of the deal.

Reno said Clear Channel’s failures here are systematic of the overall challenges he faces attracting acts to Fayetteville, which is considered a small market for concerts.

“This is a very difficult market to entice promoters to bring shows,” he said. “That has been pretty much documented over the years.”

Those factors include a crowd that tends to wait until the last day to buy tickets; the lack of a locally based television affiliate to help promote shows; and the proximity to Alltel Pavilion an hour away.

Reno said no one knows if the booking deal, which involves the Patriots basketball team, will be extended to 2011 after the first term is scheduled to expire Sept. 30.

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