MACON IT HAPPEN: Atrium Health Amphitheater, a new 10,000-capacity facility in Macon, Georgia shown here in a rendering, opens March 24 with Lynyrd Skynyrd/ZZ Top. (Courtesy venue)

Atrium Health signs 10-year, $4M-plus naming rights deal

Atrium Health Amphitheater, the new outdoor concert venue in Macon, Georgia opening in March, strengthens the city’s rich history in the annals of rock, soul and country music.

On Tuesday, in the city where Little Richard, Otis Redding and Jason Aldean grew up, the Allman Brothers Band communed for three years at the “Big House” in the early 1970s, and the old Capricorn Records built the foundation for southern rock, local officials announced naming rights for the 10,000-capacity shed.

Atrium Health, the nation’s third-biggest healthcare network headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, signed a 10-year deal with Macon-Bibb County, which owns the property, and OVG360, the company running, booking and marketing the amphitheater, as well as providing the facility’s food service.

The total value of the agreement surpasses $4 million, industry sources said.

Elsewhere, Atrium Health holds naming rights for the NFL Carolina Panthers and MLS Charlotte FC practice facilities and the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers’ minor league ballpark.

All told, OVG Global Partnerships, which brokered the deal in Macon, has completed 30 naming rights deals across sports and entertainment since the agency was launched in 2015, said Dan Griffis, the group’s president and founder.

OVG360 is a division of Oak View Group, which owns VenuesNow and Pollstar magazines. Naming rights revenue goes to the operating account, which is under Macon-Bibb County and the Urban Development Authority, which issued $44 million on revenue bonds to help finance construction, said David Aiello, OVG360’s general manager in Macon.

OVG360 contributed $2 million to the project, said Aiello, who also runs two other venues in town: Macon Coliseum, which opened in 1968, and Macon City Auditorium, which turns 100 years old next year. Together, the three venues make up the Macon Centreplex.

Atrium Health Amphitheater was built next to the old Macon Mall, situated about five miles southwest of downtown Macon. The amphitheater, plus one of the world’s biggest pickle ball complexes that occupies an old Macy’s department store, is part of a bigger redevelopment planned for the shopping center site. Two four-lane thoroughfares tied to interstates 75 and 475 provide easy access to the amphitheater, Aiello said.

Aiello is bullish on the prospects for establishing the amphitheater as a strong summer concert destination in middle Georgia. Macon sits 90 to 120 miles southeast of Atlanta, depending on where you’re headed, a distance that take up to three hours in heavy traffic, according to Aiello.

In that respect, Macon is a separate market from Atlanta and its multiple outdoor venues, Aiello said.

“We’re not necessarily competing with Atlanta,” he said. “We plan to pull down into the Florida Panhandle toward Valdosta, up towards Milledgeville and into Athens. Of the five shows we currently have on sale, we’ve seen that trend. It’s spread out. We are pulling some (ticket buyers) from Atlanta, too, which tells you people are willing to come down here.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd/ZZ Top christens the amphitheater on March 24, followed by Riley Green (April 4); Anthony Hamilton with Johnny Gill & Leela James (April 13); Turnpike Troubadours (April 27); the Ladies  R&B Kickback Concert (May 4); and Jason Aldean (Oct. 5).

Three more shows will be announced in the coming weeks. Aiello projects about 20 concerts will take place over the first year of operation, in addition to a few dozen community events.

Aiello said Macon’s musical legacy should help boost amphitheater programming.

“It helps us get our foot in the door to get shows we otherwise might not be able to secure,” he said. “From a booking standpoint, the thing we’ve noticed over the five to seven years I’ve been here, is Atlanta is a saturated market. They have a lot of the same shows every year and those acts are looking for secondary markets where they can branch out. Feedback has been good in the industry, and so far, ticket sales have dictated that interest.”

M&M: The Macon amphitheater’s roof design is shaped like the letter M. (Courtesy venue)

The amphitheater was a design-build project, led by Atlanta-based architect TVS and Piedmont Construction. There are 4,000 fixed seats, a lawn with 6,000 capacity, six suites, elevated above the lawn, and 208 loge seats. The roof design takes the shape of the letter M for Macon, Aiello said.

OVG Hospitality’s food operation will encompass grab-and-go locations, open air and flanking the seating bowl. As part of the lawn portion, underground power outlets provide hookups for food trucks and portable stands supporting local vendors, Aiello said.

“It’s been a fun process,” he said. “The other two venues in town are 56 years old and (almost) 100 years old. We go to having a brand new facility and you take what you’ve learned from the others. We’ll be cashless and have mobile ordering, all those things that we haven’t been able to do at the older buildings.”