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East County Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019 3 years ago

Embrace Temptations ... build an amphitheater in Lakewood Ranch

Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

During my daily commute in San Francisco more than a decade ago, I used to listen to the radio station KNBR, which aired some segments of questionable taste — translate that to "makes you laugh" — including "live or dead?"

The premise of "live or dead" was simple. Let the host give you three celebrity names and you had to say whether they were still among us, or not. If you got all three right, you would receive prizes such as two tickets to San Francisco Spiders hockey or lunch at Der Wienerschnitzel. 

A few days ago I was checking out the local concert scene and I thought a less offensive version of the game might might be "live or dead" bands or individual performers. Those still touring, or not.

Take for instance — Whitesnake, Pat Benatar, Tom Jones, Weird Al Yankovic, Hootie and the Blowfish, Todd Rundgren, The Who, Phil Collins, Don Mclean, KISS, Richard Marx, Buckcherry, Santana, Jackson Browne, the Temptations and Boz Scaggs.

Jay Heater

You might be surprised that all continue to tour, and will be appearing in our area (Tampa to Sarasota) in the next year. I should point out that some of these tours have catchy names, such as the KISS "End of the Road — Final Tour Ever."

Alrighty then, we will believe that one when we don't see it.

As long as we are willing to buy a ticket, whether or not the lead singer can still hit the high notes, these performers will take the stage.

And that's a good thing.

It's a good thing that makes me wish we had an amphitheater right here in Lakewood Ranch.

Who would come?

Blue Oyster Cult did.

It was Jan. 8, 2017 when Blue Oyster Cult played at Thunder By the Bay's one-and-done showing in Lakewood Ranch. It was a cold, nasty day and still thousands of people packed in front of a temporary stage at Premier Sports Campus.

I had last seen Blue Oyster Cult in 1977 at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. It seemed strange to me that 40 years later, they could still rock the house, or the field.

It was different, though, way back when. At the time, artists didn't mind playing at a smaller venue, so you could hear the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd scream, "How are ya doing Poughkeepsie?"

You also had 3,000 people drinking two six-packs of beer each and using four bathrooms. Some of those memories are a little murky because we all were standing in line waiting for the restroom. But the days of top level entertainers playing to 3,000 fans are gone, unless the tickets are $500 each.

Certainly, we are not going to hear Elton John saying, "It's great to be in Lakewood Ranch." That's OK, because the never-say-die nature of concert tours says we still can enjoy those of lesser stature on their ... final tour ever.

Living in Columbus, Ind., for four years earlier this decade, I saw former stars Three Dog Night, Don Felder (of the Eagles) and REO Speedwagon, all scheduled in a park amphitheater. It's being done all over.

Why not here? Why not now?

In this planning year for Premier Sports Campus and the county land adjacent to it, some wonderful amenities will be coming to Lakewood Ranch. A new library, an aquatics center, and sports fields and courts.

How about building a permanent, covered stage, completely wired so musicians can just hook up before performing. Situate the stage in such a way that you could let 6,000 to 8,000 people sit on the lawn in front of it and still be able to see. Make sure there is parking nearby for that many folks.

Such a facility might also be used for graduations, or community bands, or plays, or school events. If we can attract a steady supply of over-the-hill rockers, so be it.

Does such an amphitheater strike a note with you? If so, let our county officials know before all the plans are finalized. It's time to think big.

It's time to get the Boz.

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