Red Hat name to grace downtown Raleigh amphitheater

Company signs five-year deal for outdoor music venue

mgarfield@newsobserver.comSeptember 5, 2012 

  • Raleigh to ease crowding at Moore Square bus depot Responding to complaints from downtown business owners and residents, the City Council approved changes Tuesday to ease bus congestion near the Moore Square Transit Station. The R-Line, a free downtown circulator bus, will no longer stop on a busy block of Wilmington Street next to the station. Instead, the stop will move to an area farther down Wilmington Street, south of Martin Street. Three more stops will be added to the R-Line’s daytime route for passengers traveling to destinations around Moore Square. These stops are already part of the R-Line’s evening and nighttime route. This winter, the 24-year-old transit station will get a $3.5 million makeover to widen passenger platforms, add a third bus lane, improve lighting and restrooms and add a bigger visitor booth with real-time information displays. More than 100 people attended a community meeting last month to voice frustration about bus traffic and overcrowding around Moore Square. The problems, they said, threaten the continued success of Wilmington Street, which has attracted new restaurants and stores in recent years.

— After two years of searching, the city went just around the corner to find a title sponsor for its downtown amphitheater.

Red Hat will put its name on the 6,000-seat venue in a deal that will pay the city $1.175 million over five years, Raleigh officials announced Tuesday.

The pact comes after the collapse of an earlier agreement to sell the naming rights to Bud Light.

In 2010, the city struck an agreement with a local beer distributor that would have netted $1.5 million. But state law prevents public venues from being named after alcoholic beverages and brands. The N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission rejected a request for an exemption.

The search for a different sponsor led to Red Hat, which began moving into a new downtown headquarters last month from its previous home at N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus.

“We’re hoping that with this collaboration, we’ll be able to help fuel the continued growth of downtown,” said Jackie Yeaney, Red Hat’s executive vice president of strategy and marketing, in a statement.

The Raleigh-based software company chose to keep its headquarters in Wake County after being promised more than $15 million in state incentives. Those incentives are contingent on the company adding 540 local workers over nine years.

An initial group of 100 employees moved in August to the 19-story office tower at 100 E. Davie St., formerly the home of Progress Energy. When the move is completed by the spring, about 1,000 employees will work in the newly dubbed Red Hat Tower.

The naming rights opportunity for the amphitheater offered the “perfect match for this uniquely Raleigh company,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.

Since opening in June 2010 next to the convention center, the venue has hosted musical acts including Mumford & Sons, Wilco, Vampire Weekend and the Beach Boys.

The new revenue “will give the city some breathing room to develop some local (concert) series that I know they’ve been wanting to develop, and some flexibility to expand their calendar,” said Dave Rose, president of Deep South Entertainment, a local booking agent.

The city has a contract with Live Nation, a national live entertainment company, to book ticketed shows at the site.

“Not only am I happy to have a sponsor, but I’m also happy that it’s Red Hat,” McFarlane said. “They’re becoming more and more a part of the community. I’m thrilled they decided to step up and do this.”

Garfield: 919-836-4952

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