City says Dell East shows will go on

Posted: March 06, 2008

The Robin Hood Dell East 2008 summer concert series will go on whether or not the long-deteriorating venue is closed for repairs, Mayor Nutter's top aide said yesterday.

Nutter's chief of staff, Clay Armbrister, told City Council that the administration would find a venue other than the Dell East to hold the concerts or would consider a construction schedule to allow the Dell East to still play host this summer.

"It is our commitment to have entertainment - somewhere," Armbrister said.

No decisions will be made, Armbrister said, until an engineer's report determines whether the outdoor amphitheater, which holds 9,000 people, is safe. The most urgent question: whether erosion to the concrete and the ground underneath has created a safety hazard. That report is expected in three weeks.

Council members were up in arms when Armbrister told them in a budget hearing last week that the Dell East would close for the summer while the city made $3 million worth of repairs to concrete, drainage and lighting, and replacement of all 5,800 seats. (The lawn area has capacity for 3,000 people and there is room for 200 wheelchairs.)

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, chair of the Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said that she had had a private conversation with Nutter about the lack of notice Council had received, but that he had assured her that the series would find a home.

"The question is: What venue?" she said.

The city-owned facility, built in the 1930s in East Fairmount Park, has been beset by structural decay and managerial problems but remains an affordable ticket for top acts, which last year included Aretha Franklin and other top rhythm and blues, funk and gospel acts.

In addition to Brown, Council members Jannie L. Blackwell, Bill Green, Curtis Jones Jr., Donna Reed Miller and Marian B. Tasco were briefed by Armbrister yesterday, and they said they were grateful that the new administration was undertaking the repairs.

"The real story is that, after 30 years, the Dell is going to get repairs," said Jones, whose Fourth District includes the Dell East. Jones said he would introduce a bill today to rename the amphitheater the Georgie Woods Outdoor Entertainment Center, after the city's famed radio personality and activist.

They suggested, however, that the 2008 concert series could be saved, with construction beginning in September and residents having plenty of notice that the Dell East would be closed in 2009. Tasco warned that, otherwise, unforeseen delays could wind up closing it for two seasons.

Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or

comments powered by Disqus