Amphitheater’s future unclear

? Live Nation has ended its 14-year agreement with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., to manage the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, sparking concern about the future of the outdoor music venue.

Live Nation was scheduled to manage its last show at the 23-year-old amphitheater outside Kansas City on Friday night. This summer, the concert promoter announced it was ending its agreement with the Unified Government, which owns the venue.

Word of Live Nation’s decision to end its lease and remove its equipment has prompted speculation that Friday night’s show – featuring REO Speedwagon, Kansas and .38 Special – would be the venue’s final large-scale concert.

But the Unified Government says that’s not necessarily so, and it has been accepting requests for proposals from companies interested in taking over the venue.

“We are confident concerts will continue at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater,” said Unified Government spokesman Mike Taylor. “We have requests out on the streets now for a new operator, and we’ve had several inquiries from firms or agencies that are interested in taking it over.”

The rapid development in western Wyandotte County fuels some of the speculation on the fate of the venue.

Schlitterbahn Waterparks is expected to open a resort near there in 2009, and voters earlier this year approved the building of a casino. The Kansas Speedway is also nearby.

Taylor, however, said, “If someone came in with a proposal to build an $800 million resort and casino on (the amphitheater) land, we’d probably talk to them.”

If a live-music entity were to take over the amphitheater, it would face competition from other outdoor venues, including Starlight Theatre, which seats nearly 8,000 fans, and Crossroads KC, which can hold up to 3,500.

Venues like Verizon, which can hold up to 18,000 people, were busiest in the mid-1990s, which is when Live Nation, known then as Contemporary Productions, started managing the venue.

In the past decade, the number of shows booked at the venue has declined steadily. In 1995, Contemporary presented 29 shows.

The amphitheater’s primary competitor would be the new Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Mo., which would most likely get the biggest acts.