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VENUE NEWS: Merriweather Gets Sound Improvement

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The Merriweather Post Pavilion, now operated and booked by Seth Hurwitz's IMP concert promotion firm, will have new acoustical panels installed before the start of the 2004 concert season.

The team that made the 9:30 Club one of the best-sounding rock clubs in the country — Mike Scarfe, owner of Maryland based MHA Audio, Inc. and John Storyk of Walters-Storyk Design Group, Inc. –is working their magic on Merriweather.

Storyk determined that two areas of the venue were problematic. The first concern was the immediate acoustical reflections from the ceiling above the audience. The solution to this was to cover the ceiling with approximately 200 absorptive panels that would squash the immediate reflections and reduce the reverb time by as much as 25 percent. The second issue was the stage itself. The sloped side of the stage was also to be covered with similar panels to reduce the immediate reflections on stage and therefore create a quieter environment for the musicians.

“Our general approach to the place has been, ‘If we can make it better, we will,’” explains Hurwitz. “The acoustical improvements we made at 9:30 really made a difference, so it makes sense. I mean, I would love it if bands left here saying it was the best-sounding amphitheatre they ever played.”

Merriweather’s schedule to date includes Dave Matthews Band, Diana Krall, Harry Connick, Jr., Kenny Chesney, Norah Jones and Sarah McLachlan. – Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

Amendment On Possible Stadium Site May Be Benched

WASHINGTON (AP) – D.C. Council member Jack Evans now says he might bench plans to connect a possible site for a Major League Baseball stadium to the development of the Anacostia waterfront.

Evans says there's been such a "frenzy" over the amendment he planned to offer Tuesday, that he might not even offer it.

He says the amendment would have made it easier to begin developing the Banneker Overlook site near L'Enfant Plaza into a new stadium – but only if Major League Baseball committed to bring a team to D.C., and if the Banneker site is chosen from among four possible sites.

If neither of those things happen, Evans says the amendment – and all the fuss that's been created – are meaningless.

Evans also says he won't do anything to promote the actual building or financing of a stadium until D.C. knows it's getting a team.

Newark Arena Opponents Denied By City Officials

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — City officials rejected petitions submitted by opponents of a proposed downtown hockey arena seeking a referendum on the plan. Organizers used the wrong state law to request such a vote, the city said.

City Attorney JoAnne Watson rejected the petitions several hours after they were submitted at City Hall Wednesday, terming them "fatally flawed."

She said organizers sought a referendum under a state law authorizing such a vote on a municipal action "authorizing the incurring of any indebtedness."

Watson said the term "indebtedness" refers only to bond debt incurred by the city. Because the Newark Housing Authority was the agency that would issue the bonds, and because lease payments from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would pay them back, the city of Newark is not incurring any debt, she said.

Proponents termed that argument "absurd" and said they would go to court soon to force the city to accept the petitions.

"As a mouthpiece for the mayor, of course the corporation counsel's first response is: 'This is wrong,' " Councilman Augusto Amador told The Star-Ledger of Newark. "We will test that in court."

At issue is a vote last month by the council to use lease payments from the Port Authority governing the use of Newark Liberty International Airport and the Port Newark-Elizabeth seaport, to back $220 million in bonds issued by the Newark Housing Authority. All but $10 million of that would go to the arena, which backers have said also would house a Major Indoor Soccer League franchise.

Organizers said they submitted about 4,600 signatures, well above the 2,314 valid signatures of registered voters required to force a referendum.

Under the formula set by state law, that represents 15 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the November 2002 Assembly election, or 15,426.

Opponents say the city should have sought community input on the plan and claim the city has more pressing needs, like improving schools and making infrastructure improvements.

Mayor Sharpe James has characterized arena opponents as "naysayers" out to thwart civic improvements during his terms in office.

Bonds To Complete O.C. PAC Funding Efforts

Lagging behind in its fundraising efforts, Orange County Performing Arts officials will issue $180 million in bonds to ensure the completion of a theater and concert hall.

To date, $117 million in cash and pledges have already been raised toward their $200 million goal to finance the 2,000-seat Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and the 500-seat Samueli Theater, in addition to an education center. Construction began last July. A September 2006 opening is planned.

According to Jerry Mandel, president of the PAC, about $5 million has been raised in the past 11 months; they were hoping to raise $130 million by the end of 2003.

”We are behind where we wanted to be, but the economy changed on us," Mandel said in the Los Angeles Times. "We're doing this so we can finish the building.

Eighty million dollars of the bond proceeds is earmarked for construction and $20 million for bond sale expenses. The balance will be invested.

–Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

Club Freedom Brings Down The Curtain In Style With Paul Oakenfold

TEMPE, AZ (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) – One of America’s most progressive music venues, Club Freedom, pulled the plug after six years.

Co-owners Steve Kushnir and Jas Tynan say on their Web site at that they want to "go out with a bang," and they've definitely got the right plan. They wrote:
“On behalf of Steve Kushnir – DOC Productions, Jas Tynan – Groovetribe and the Club Freedom staff we want to thank everyone who has helped create and support Kind and Freedom nightclub. Each and every one of you has kept us thriving these past six years and have provided such great memories to take with us. This marks the end of chapter for us, but also the beginning of a new one, and we hope you join us in creating a new future.

We are dedicating this last month to all the smiling faces, sore feet, laughter and tears and to the loved ones we have lost along the way – Amy Kushnir, Mike McGarey and Christopher Harvey – you will always be loved, never be forgotten.

We are sad to announce that on Friday, May 28th, Kind will produce it's last show and on Monday, May 31st, Club Freedom will close it's doors permanently.”

On Sunday night, England's Paul Oakenfold, one of the world's top deejays, brought his multilayered sounds to the Tempe, AZ club for its final marathon dance set. Oakenfold christened Freedom on its opening night in 1998. The club earned a global reputation by bringing in hot deejays on a regular basis, especially for its popular "Kind Fridays."

The club's exit leaves a large hole in the Valley's electronic scene. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

Pyramid Survives Close Vote In Memphis To Close It

MEMPHIS (AP) — The Memphis City Council has voted to keep The Pyramid Arena open, but only by the slimmest of margins.

The issue came up as the Council struggled with final budget cuts Tuesday.

After hearing that it would cost less than a half million dollars a year to maintain the performance venue if it were closed, compared with three times that in projected losses for the next year if kept open, the Council voted on a motion to shut it down.

The issue failed on a tie vote.

The building is owned by the city and Shelby County. A task force looking for new uses for The Pyramid began meeting last week.

The NBA Memphis Grizzlies will move into the new FedEx Forum next season.

Qwest Buys Naming Rights To Seattle NFL Stadium

Seattle (AP) — Seahawks Stadium, the home of Seattle's NFL team, will soon be Qwest Field.

Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc.- which recently reported a $310 million quarterly loss – announced today that it is buying the naming rights to the football stadium, which has operated without a corporate sponsor since it was completed in 2002.

Terms of the agreement were not immediately revealed, pending approval from the Washington state Public Stadium Authority.

The agreement was brokered by The Bonham Group of Denver, a sports marketing company that specializes in naming rights contracts.

A source told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer the Seahawks Stadium deal is of shorter duration and “much bigger than” a $40 million deal for naming rights at Safeco Field, the neighboring Seattle Mariners baseball stadium, which has a retractable roof.