continued Last year, when the Republican National Convention came to town, the Summer Pops series was moved back to Hospitality Point in Mission Bay Park, where the symphony had originated its outdoor summer shows back in the middle 1980s. When the symphony filed for bankruptcy in the spring of 1996, Silva and the city signed a five-month deal of their own that allowed Silva to continue staging pop shows on Hospitality Point. Again, other local promoters cried foul, this time because no one else had been invited to bid. "It was so close to summer that there was no time to put it out for bid," explains Terri Williams, deputy director of the city park and recreation department's coastal parks division. "He had already worked on it [the season] and had even booked some acts."
Under his solo deal with the city, Silva produced 14 shows by acts ranging from the Moody Blues to Linda Ronstadt. The concerts drew a total of 59,595 people and generated $1,460,344 in revenue. The city received 5 percent of gross ticket sales, 3 percent of food sales, and 5 percent of beverage sales, for a total of $62,288. The new contract Silva and the city just signed is for the MayPOctober 1997 concert season, with two one-year options "at the sole and absolute discretion of the city manager." Due to complaints from Avalon Attractions that the first contract had not been sent out to bid, Williams says, the city last December ran two weeks of ads in the San Diego Daily Transcript seeking proposals. City officials also approached Avalon, Bartell, and a third promoter who has worked in the San Diego area, the Nederlander Group of Los Angeles, and invited them to submit proposals.
But Silva "was the only valid response" the city received, Williams maintains, so he got the contract. The terms of the agreement are the same as last year's, except that the city stands to reap 5 percent of food sales instead of 3 percent. Silva also must guarantee a minimum of $50,000, with all proceeds going for upkeep of Mission Bay Park.
Silva insists "it's not a sweetheart deal. Each year we have to pay $300,000 to $350,000 to build and install the site - in staging, fencing, electrical, dressing rooms, equipment acquisitions, labor costs, ad infinitum. And then on top of that, because of the size of the venue and the fact that it's in a public park that needs to be cleaned every night after each show, we spend another $300,000 to make it presentable to the public. So we're spending between $600,000 and $650,000 a year in operations. Nothing's permanent, and there's no assurance that we will have it next year. The reason there were no other proposals is that everybody I talked to thought it was a crazy and insane deal and doesn't make sense financially. If it did, other people would have submitted bids."
Both Avalon's Swift and Humphrey's Bartell, however, say the reason they did not submit bids is that they were busy producing summer concert series of their own elsewhere. Another promoter said he did not submit a bid because he felt he could not have gotten the same terms Silva, "with his city hall connections," was able to negotiate.
Critics also fault the selection process, wondering why ads for a proposal were run in a tiny downtown business paper with a circulation of less than 10,000, instead of a nationally circulated entertainment trade like Billboard, Variety or the Hollywood Reporter.
And while Silva points out that he pays the same percentage of ticket, food, and drink sales to the city as Humphrey's pays to the port, critics note that Humphrey's holds its concerts in its own facility, on its own leased grounds - for which it already pays the port more than $600,000 a year in rent.
"If I were Bill Silva I would be very happy with the deal," concludes Avalon's Swift. "But if the city were in it just for the money, they could have done a better job."