Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Why are Live Nation turning down free money in Cork?

Live Nation’s decision to withdraw from the two bids for Cork’s events centre is another twist in a long-running tale

The Beamish and Crawford site in Cork: is this the future home of Cork's events centre?

Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 09:49


If you thought that we’d heard the last of the bizarre lines in the story of Cork’s long-mooted events centre, think again. Some readers will recall that the proposed venue was one of the few winners in last year’s budget thanks to a decision by the government to lash €10 million in cash from the National Lottery into a pot to support “the development of a large scale multi-functional events centre in Cork”.

As we reported back then, Live Nation were all over one of the applications for the centre, the one promoted by developer Owen O’Callaghan to turn a two-acre site on Albert Quay into a 5,000-seat venue. However, it now appears that Live Nation decided to hedge their bets along the line and were also involved in the application by BAM and Heineken Ireland to turn the former Beamish and Crawford site in to the city into a 6,000-seat event centre, cinema, student apartments, restaurants, shops, bars, and galleries.

In both cases, it was expected that they were going to manage and operate the venue on behalf of the developer, but there’s no doubt that they’d also look at owning the venue in due course, as we’ve seen with Dublin’s O2, because this is the company’s business model worldwide

Both applications had received planning permission so it was over to Cork City Council to toss the coin and make the final call on who was going be Cork’s events centre big kahoona (at least, they weren’t going to try to have two of the damn things – the good times are not quite back). The council called for tenders (it is understood that only the BAM/Heineken group submitted a tender), which were then to be assessed by consultants PricewaterhouseCooper before a final decision was made.

But, as Barry Roche reports in today’s paper, the saga took another turn when it transpires that our favourite global live music megabusiness Live Nation had withdrawn from both tenders for the centre. Per Barry’s report, “it emerged last week that Live Nation was not happy with some of conditions being imposed on the event operator by Cork City Council as part of the tender agreement” and had stood down from both bids. Stinger for everyone.

It would be interesting to know which conditions caused so much problems for a company with a growing presence in Ireland’s live music business. The company’s Irish interests include their involvement with promoter Denis Desmond’s business affairs, their partnership with MCD Concerts on Festival Republic, their ownership of the O2 and management of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin. This withdrawal from the process is all the more curious given that there was a significant bundle of taxpayers’ cash involved. No doubt, some light will be thrown on those contentious conditions in time as this story, which has now been running since 2006 without any resolution in sight, keeps twisting and turning.