LONG BEACH — Between July and January, the main amphitheater on the downtown Promenade was used about six times. Since January, it hasn't been used at all, except for those who brown-bag it on the concrete seats and grassy lawns.
The evening and weekend pedestrian traffic that the 4-year-old amphitheater was expected to attract hasn't materialized either, or at least not to the extent some businessmen had hoped.
"A broad walkway that has only a handful of people is not what was intended," said Marv Haney, a partner in a Promenade-front restaurant. "Basically, when the City of Long Beach opened the Promenade, they planned programs. But with the exception of the Jazz Festival, that died off after the (1984) Olympics."
With financial backing from the city's Redevelopment Agency and staff support from the Recreation Department, Haney and a group of businessmen called the Promenade Activity Committee are attempting to get the Promenade's show back on the road.
Their goal is a year-round monthly arts and crafts festival modeled after those in Santa Barbara and Ventura, entertainment by community-based performing groups, and a "City Life" concert series in the amphitheater.
Organizers said they hope the art festival will eventually become self-supporting. But the concerts, which would be similar to a series held in the amphitheater during the Olympics, would require regular injections of private money.
The programs would be paid for by Promenade businesses and administered by the Recreation Department in what Haney calls "a private-public partnership."
$51,800 Made Available
On Monday, the Redevelopment Agency voted to give $25,900 to the city's Recreation Department, which is administering the program. It also agreed to lend $25,900 for the project.
The money will pay for promotional advertising as well as the salary of a part-time Recreation Department employee, who will coordinate the activities.
"If we are able to cover the $50,000, we'll give it all back," said Marie Dixon, manager of the Recreation Department's cultural and special events bureau. "But let's say the worst happens and there's no interest. If we get halfway through the money and see we're not getting any support, then we're not going to keep spending."
The Promenade Activity Committee is in the process of putting "price tags on our menu of events," Haney said. Then the acid test, recruiting sponsors, will begin.
"I think we will get enough support the first year to get the job done," Haney said. "After that, it has to make sense to businesses. If businesses see new faces in their service area, they will be willing to put in additional money."
The Promenade, which opened in 1982, is a wide walkway that connects the Long Beach Plaza shopping center with about 30 businesses in Shoreline Village. It incorporates restaurants and hotels, including the Hyatt Regency and the Ramada Renaissance, which is expected to open in mid-August.
The Redevelopment Agency has sponsored downtown cultural events for several years, said Roger Anderman, director of community development. "Promotion of a redevelopment area is a very important part of redevelopment," he said.