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AEG Live protests Pier Six Pavilion contract as it heads to Board of Estimates

AEG Live is protesting the Pier Six Pavilion contract as it heads to Board of Estimates

AEG Live Mid-Atlantic, one of the entertainment companies passed over for a contract to operate Baltimore's Pier Six Pavilion, filed a formal protest Monday with the city Board of Estimates, which is tasked with approving the contract.

The Baltimore Development Corp. announced in September that it had entered into exclusive negotiations with Live Nation and SMG to take over management of the outdoor concert venue at the Inner Harbor beginning in 2017, when the city's contract with current operator the Cordish Cos. expires.

The Board of Estimates is scheduled to review Wednesday a recommendation to approve a seven-year contract with Live Nation and SMG, one of three groups that bid to take over the contract. Rams Head Group, which managed the venue under the Cordish contract, also bid.

AEG, which runs Rams Head Live in Baltimore, is now seeking to block the deal. In a Nov. 28 letter to the board, AEG alleges that the BDC violated the city charter by seeking enhanced bids after the initial bidding process had closed, possibly giving an advantage to other contenders.

"The rationale for the enhanced bid requests has not been publicly disclosed and the lack of transparency raises questions about the integrity of the entire process and thereby the recommendation of any bid at this time," said A. William Reid, senior vice president of AEG Live Mid-Atlantic, in the letter.

In his letter, Reid also takes issue with the fact that the BDC did not host in-person presentations with bidders, even though AEG requested a meeting several times. The city also has not released original bid documents that AEG asked for in a September public information request, according to the letter.

The BDC declined to comment on the protest, as did Live Nation.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who serves as president of the Board of Estimates, will "carefully scrutinize" the protest in preparation for the Wednesday meeting, a spokesman said.

While many items on the board's agenda are moved through as routine approvals, those for which someone has filed a formal protest are heard individually.

The board could decide to approve the contract anyway or postpone a decision.

In its request for proposals, the BDC sought a venue manager that would increase the number of events at the venue, extend the length of the concert season, increase the venue's profitability and create a capital improvement program to fund upgrades.

In September, the BDC said the city chose to move forward with Live Nation and SMG because it had the largest capital improvement program and the most optimal returns for the city.

Live Nation and SMG would invest $3.4 million in capital improvements over the contract's term and would hold at least 25 shows annually, according to details included in the Board of Estimates agenda.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

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