The Big Empty

Beck, the Strokes, and the Pixies have all played UCSD’s 4700-capacity multipurpose RIMAC arena. The school is looking for a concert promoter to take over RIMAC and run it the way Live Nation handles SDSU’s Viejas Arena.

UCSD is seeking bids for an “exclusive promoter services” agreement on RIMAC. The school has had no takers. Several insiders say the university is not likely to get one.

“There are too many buildings and not enough acts,” says one promoter, who notes that a slumping economy has caused some headliners such as the Mars Volta, which used to play the 4600-capacity Open Air Theatre, to play smaller venues such as Soma (2300 capacity).

“Besides, no one wants to use RIMAC because [UCSD] requires you to use student labor to put on a show there,” says one promoter. “That lowers your level of professionalism. Plus, I would say it costs about 40 percent less to do a show at [SDSU’s Viejas] Arena than it does at RIMAC. Because of that, it is simply not viable to use it as a venue. Besides, it’s basically a gym. The acoustics are horrible. There is too much metal in the room.”

Insiders say that USD at one time was reaching out to promoters to use its Jenny Craig Pavilion and that the City of San Diego has over the years made overtures for concert companies to use the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park.

“This has been a real slow year for concerts,” says the promoter. “And what you have is that most of the major tours are handled by either AEG or Live Nation, and they would rather put shows on in their own rooms. AEG has the Sports Arena, and Live Nation has [Viejas] Arena and Open Air Theatre. They aren’t going to put anything in RIMAC when they have commitments to their own venues.”

Meanwhile, a constricting economy has forced one major casino to cash in its concert chips.

Valley View Casino will not present any concert headliners in 2010. This year the casino presented some 15 major-name headliners at its 3000-capacity outdoor concert facility, including Julio Iglesias, the Beach Boys, Pat Benatar, and Seal. While Valley View’s James Taylor show was a sellout, many others — including Frankie Avalon, Three Dog Night, and Kansas — did not do well at the box office. AEG booked the shows for Valley View.

Valley View general manager Bruce Howard confirmed that the casino will not be announcing a summertime concert lineup for 2010 and will instead focus on booking artists for its main stage lounge, mentioning acts such as Hot Rod Lincoln, Lady Dottie and the Diamonds, and the Heroes.

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