The workshop started out on a positive note with the official announcement that a search is underway for a Special Events Coordinator for the amphitheater. Parks Director Richard Curry shared a video of the Koka Amphitheatre in Raleigh, North Carolina, showing all the possibilities the Spellman has before it. He explained that there will be an online special events form that interested parties can fill out to inquire about holding events at the amphitheater. Curry made it clear that the issues of alcohol sales, ticketing, concessions, and other policies need to be established soon because the Spellman is ready to be used.
Members of the Planning and Zoning Committee, the Spellman Amphitheater Sub-Committee, and the Forney Economic Development Department also took part in the workshop, which gave the opportunity for differing opinions to be heard. Richard Curry explained that they hope to book at least four national acts a year at the amphitheater and that those acts would be revenue generators that would help cover city costs for regional and local acts. The goal is that the Spellman would be neither a revenue generator nor a drain on city funds. The Spellman sub-committee members and Curry agreed that they want to provide as much free or affordable entertainment to the community as possible.
The topic of beer and wine sales was brought up quickly and dominated most of the two and a half hour meeting. Parks and Rec. Chairman Jody Eastep voiced his objections to having any alcohol allowed at the amphitheater because it would essentially be allowing alcohol into the Forney Community Park. Parks and Rec. board member Nate Dettmer lives near the park and said that while he is for alcohol sales at the amphitheater for some events, he and his neighbors worry about the traffic and potential drunk drivers coming through the neighborhood. Mayor Darren Rozell pointed out that there would be no alcohol sales or alcohol allowed outside of the amphitheater, which is a gated facility. No alcohol would be allowed in any other area of the park, nor would any park concessions sell alcohol. Mayor Rozell also noted that for those few amphitheater events each year that would be allowed to sell beer and wine, there would be adequate security and police presence. Rozell said, “Our public intoxication laws will still apply inside the amphitheater.”
Council member Mary Penn made it clear that she is against alcohol sales at the Spellman but said, “I'm trying to be open-minded.” She and fellow City Council member James Hatley had a misunderstanding during the talks and that led to voices being raised in anger. Penn and Hatley quickly apologized to each other for the misunderstanding and continued to work towards some sort of agreement. Planning and Zoning Chairman Robert Dobbs stood up and asked how they would be able to allow beer and wine sales at only the four national concerts a year. City Manager Brian Brooks said that because the city owns the park and the amphitheater, it was simply a matter of setting the policies that would dictate when alcohol would be sold. Curry said that his research has shown that most promoters of big acts “want alcohol sales, to make sure their acts make money.” EDC Director Kim Buttram spoke of the bigger picture for Forney, “In order to be a destination city, we're going to need those big acts. There's a bigger impact here than just the amphitheater.”
City Councilman Andy Parker posed a question for everyone to consider, “Do we want to bring these national acts to our community so that they don't have to drive to Grand Prairie to see these concerts?” If so, most national touring acts will want to be allowed to have third party beer and wine sales at their events. Though the suggestion to table the talk of alcohol sales came up, the majority in the workshop felt that it is not a decision to be delayed any longer. Mayor Rozell said, “Ultimately this is the Council's decision.” He and Brian Brooks felt strongly that a formal action item on alcohol sales and other policies for the Spellman can be introduced at the first City Council meeting in August. An Entertainment Overlay District designation has to be approved for alcohol sales to be allowed, due to current city ordinances. The venue has been built and is ready for use, it is now simply waiting for the red tape to be cut through so that Forney residents can begin to enjoy this first rate facility.