Waiting to Hear the Music Again at Covelli, The Amp

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Youngstown is an overachiever when it comes to landing concerts and other performances by national acts, and that makes the shutdown of venues sting even more.

Covelli Centre and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre are the main engines for bringing crowds downtown for touring shows.

Those venues and others like them across the state have been silenced since March, and the governor has yet to say when theaters, arenas and amphitheaters can reopen.

Live entertainment has been among the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic. Pollstar, the live-event trade research organization, projected the shutdown could cost the national industry $9 billion in lost revenue in 2020, which is 75% of the previously projected box office.

For Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management, which operates Covelli and The Amp, and JAC Live, his promotion company, these are frustrating times.
The closures of both facilities has brought his business to a standstill and not being able to plan for a reopening makes it even more difficult.

“We’re out of business until they tell us we can be open,” Ryan says. “I don’t have any info that anybody else doesn’t have. We have no date for reopening.”

Between Covelli and The Amp, more than 20 shows have been canceled or postponed so far because of the shutdown. The June 13 concert at Stambaugh Stadium by country superstar Luke Bryan, which is being handled by JAC Live, had to be postponed to May 2021.

It’s unlikely that arenas and theaters will reopen in the near future, but Ryan says amphitheaters deserve a closer look.

“The biggest favor the government could do right now is give us a tentative date,” Ryan says. “They have to know what they are thinking [at this point]. If they would give us the go-ahead for The Amp, there is plenty of room there. It’s easier to reduce capacity there.”

The Amp holds 4,800 while the capacity at Covelli, which has fixed seats, is as much as 6,300 for end-stage concerts. Social distancing would sharply reduce those numbers, making it hard to turn a profit.

“Twenty-five percent or even 50% will not work for the majority of shows [at Covelli],” Ryan explains. “You have to take it case by case, though, because it depends on what each show costs. If we could change the structure of the agreement, we could do it for 3,000 people instead of 6,000 at the arena.”

Ryan points out that wedding receptions with up to 300 guests got the green light on May 21. He just hopes he’ll be allowed to reopen his facilities before the end of the year.

“It will probably be sometime in football season,” he surmises. “Football will be what drives this train. We’ll see what Ohio State and YSU and the pros do with it.”

Until then, the waiting is the hardest part.

“We should be hearing something soon, some sort of timeline,” Ryan says. “That is my wish.”

The next show scheduled at Covelli Centre is the Impractical Jokers comedy tour on June 20, which is still on the books but is likely to be postponed. The Beach Boys are slated to play The Amp Aug. 26.

Canceled shows include a May 5 concert by Volbeat at Covelli. Three upcoming concerts at The Amp – Steve Miller Band (June 24), Tedeschi Trucks Band (July 8) and Michael Stanley and Donnie Iris (July 18) – have also been canceled.

The Amp opened in June of 2019 and was an immediate hit with downtown restaurant and bar owners. Throngs of fans crowded their establishments before and after the concerts on summer nights.

Dan Martini, owner of The Federal bar and restaurant on West Federal Street, is among those lamenting the closing of The Amp.

“We lost the momentum we started last year when the amphitheater opened,” he said.

Pictured above: Fans packed The Amp last summer for the Donnie Iris and Michael Stanley concert.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.