Jacksonville’s newest performing arts venue, Daily’s Place, is putting pressure on one of the city’s oldest music halls, the Florida Theatre.
Acts that have played the Florida Theatre in the past are opting for “the shiny new amphitheater down the street” this year, said President Numa Saisselin.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” said Saisselin when asked if shows were choosing the amphitheater. “The answer is yes.”
Goo Goo Dolls, Kidz Bop, Diana Ross and others that previously routed their tour stops through Jacksonville at the Florida Theatre are instead taking their shows to Daily’s Place.
“We can’t stop that,” said Saisselin when asked about the impact that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s new covered outdoor amphitheater will have on the entertainment landscape in North Florida.
“We’re going to weather this like anything else,” he said.
The Florida Theatre opened in April 1927 at 128 E. Forsyth St. Downtown.
The city-owned theater has been leased to the nonprofit Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center Inc. since 1987.
The historic Florida Theatre seats about 2,000 people, depending on the type of show, indoors in a climate-controlled venue.
Daily’s Place features 5,500 fixed seats, covered by a roof that connects to EverBank Field’s southern concourse.
While the city oversees the Florida Theatre building, the nonprofit manages the programs and events, which include events from comedians like Kat Williams to singer-songwriters like Ben Harper.
Saisselin said leadership at the 90-year old Florida Theater, which brought around 167,000 patrons to 168 events last year, is approaching the new competition the same way it did when other venues came to the area.
“We predate the Times-Union Center and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, and we’ve weathered those opening, too,” he said.
The St. Augustine Amphitheatre opened in 1965 and received major upgrades in 2002.
The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts originally opened as the Civic Auditorium in 1962 and was renovated in 1995-97 to become the Times-Union Center.
Daily’s Place is part of a $90 million expansion to the Everbank Field complex, paid for by the city and Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
It includes an indoor practice facility under construction next to the amphitheater.
The venue is managed by the newly formed Bold Events LLC and Pennsylvania-based SMG, which also operates other city-owned facilities that include EverBank Field and Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Jaguars and Bold Events President Mark Lamping calls Daily’s Place a “one-of-a-kind experience.”
“I don’t know that anyone has attached a 5,500-seat, three-level open-air performing arts center to a 25-year-old NFL stadium,” Lamping said Wednesday.
“The types of amenities and hospitality options that we provide are unparalleled with a facility of this size,” he said.
Venues seek their niche
Lamping said he’s confident that Daily’s Place isn’t going to harm business for other entertainment spaces in the long run, since they all have something different to offer.
“The only thing they have in common is musicians play there, that’s about it,” said Lamping. “I think each of the facilities can meet a certain niche.”
So far, they’ve all been able to co-exist.
• Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is the largest indoor venue, with the capacity to seat up to 15,000 people.
• At the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, the Jim and Jan Moran Theater seats 2,800, while the Robert E. Jacoby Hall can seat about 1,800 and the C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Theater can accommodate 600 people.
• The St. Augustine Amphitheatre can accommodate 4,100 people.
• The Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts at the Florida State College at Jacksonville South Campus can seat up to 530 people.
• The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall’s capacity is 900 standing and 450 seated.
• The Ritz Theatre and Museum can seat about 400.
Optimistic forecast for Daily’s Place
The Daily’s Place and indoor practice facility are part of a larger plan to redevelop the sports and entertainment district by Khan and the city.
In April, the Downtown Investment Authority chose Khan’s Iguana Investments LLC as master developer for the 70-acre riverfront property across the street from EverBank Field.
Khan intends to transform it into a mixed-use entertainment complex.
Lamping said negotiations for the economic development agreement are “going well.”
The long-term effects won’t be evident for a while.
Daily’s Place opened over Memorial Day weekend with Tedeschi Trucks Band on Saturday followed by Train, O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield on Sunday.
An acoustic set with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on Tuesday capped off the grand opening.
Lamping said the venue will host about 45 events through the end of 2017.
“I think that’s more than even the most optimistic person would have projected a year ago,” he said.
Several of those acts, however would more than likely have played at the Florida Theatre or the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, according to Saisselin, since they’ve played shows there in the past.
For example, Third Eye Blind, which played at the Florida Theatre in 2009, and Chicago (2011), The Doobie Brothers (2008) and Counting Crows (2011), and others will take their 2017 tours to Daily’s Place, instead.
History on Florida Theatre’s side
“What we can do is use what we’ve learned from the experience and double down on what we’re good at and offer something different, something we feel the citizens of Jacksonville need to see that they’re not currently getting” Saisselin said.
He said the Florida Theatre and Daily’s Place are distinctly different, not only in size but in audience experience, something he said should work in the Florida Theatre’s favor with attracting fans and artists.
“There are only a handful of venues that date back to the 1900s and this is one of them,” said Saisselin, who noted that he’s received compliments from musicians and other performers who’ve played the venue since he joined the nonprofit in 2012.
Saisselin also is looking toward development in the surrounding area and on the same block.
The historic Bostwick Building around the corner at Bay and Ocean streets is under construction to become the Cowford Chophouse.
Bold City Brewery’s latest tap room and experimental brewery, Bold City Downtown, opened in April next to the chophouse.
“It’s nice to see some new activity percolating,” Saisselin said. “I’m very hopeful that things are going to continue to happen Downtown.”
While the Daily’s Place’s lineup indicates a music-heavy rotation of acts this year, the Florida Theatre will continue to showcase a variety of performances.
Saisselin said this year’s acts will include comedians, classic movie screenings, musicians, performing artists, children’s and family-friendly shows, and other events such as lectures and more intimate performances, “that you can’t see anywhere else.”
That diversity, Saisselin said, will keep people coming back.
“There’s a loyal audience for the Florida Theater, and that’s not going to change.”
The Florida Theatre
The number of events and attendance over the past decade:
Source: Florida Theatre