Concerts in the meadows will give way to music in the Verizon as Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, the county's only major outdoor rock-pop concert venue, gets a new name: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
The new moniker will be evident to roughly 30,000 Jimmy Buffett fans who turn out for his two Irvine shows next week, an amphitheater official said Friday.
"This gives us the opportunity to promote our products through sponsorship and to do on-site sales and product displays," said Randy Laub, manager of marketing communications for newly formed Verizon Wireless cellular phone company.
Irvine Meadows had become a rarity for holding onto a name without a direct corporate connection, as names reflecting corporate partners have become the rule rather than the exception at sports and entertainment facilities nationwide.
Those without corporate names, including the Greek Theatre and Hollywood Bowl in Southern California, are rapidly dwindling.
The Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, Edison International Field, Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore and Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego typify the corporate ties with major Southland venues.
Laub said the seven-year sponsorship deal between Verizon Wireless--formerly AirTouch Cellular--and SFX Entertainment, the New York-based concert giant that operates the amphitheater, is a multimillion-dollar contract.
"We see a lot of applications for our products within the segment of the population that attends rock 'n' roll concerts and all the other types of music held there," Laub said.
Matt Curto, director of operations at Irvine Meadows, said Friday that new signs were already going up.
"It'll be mostly cosmetic changes," he said. The "Verizon" will be added to the theater's marquee next to the San Diego Freeway near Irvine Center Drive, as well as throughout the 16,000-capacity amphitheater's grounds.
Laub said this deal extends only as far as renaming Irvine Meadows, but because of SFX's extensive entertainment holdings and because Verizon Wireless also is national in scope, he said future sponsorships are a possibility.
Verizon Wireless is a wireless phone service joint venture created earlier this month by Vodafone AirTouch and Bell Atlantic Corp. The name Verizon is a combination of veritas, Latin for "truth," and "horizon," company officials said.
Irvine Meadows opened in 1991 as Orange County's first major outdoor pop-rock concert facility. Two years later, the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa gave Irvine Meadows a competitor, but the Pacific has been dark since 1995 because of noise complaints from neighbors.
Irvine Meadows was built by a consortium of Orange County investors and has hosted dozens of the biggest rock and pop shows, from Michael Jackson and the Grateful Dead to Alanis Morrisette and the Lollapalooza alternative-rock festival.
The amphitheater was taken over in 1998 by New York-based SFX Entertainment, now the world's largest concert promoter and theater operator, as part of a deal in which SFX also acquired Encino-based Avalon Attractions, the exclusive concert promoter at Irvine Meadows. SFX owns or operates 120 facilities in 31 of the top 50 U.S. markets.
SFX's purchase of Irvine Meadows came after resolution of a dispute between the Irvine Co., which owns the land under the amphitheater, and Harry Shuster, a developer who leased the land from the Irvine Co. and subleased it to Irvine Meadows' operators. Shuster had threatened to raze Irvine Meadows during hostilities with the Irvine Co., which settled the legal battle in 1998.
Irvine Meadows hosted 24 events last year, including such major rock and pop acts as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Orange County punk group the Offspring, as well as performances by the Santa Ana-based Pacific Symphony, which holds about half a dozen outdoor concerts at Irvine Meadows each summer.
In addition to Buffett's performances Thursday and next Saturday, the amphitheater's lineup for 2000 also includes concerts with the Cure, Steely Dan, Roger Waters and Bob Dylan.