EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) - Renovations are underway at the East County Performing Arts Center to turn the nearly 50-year-old performance hall into a rock and roll concert venue.
"We have to change the vibe, the feel of what this building is," said Dirk Epperson, El Cajon's Director of Public Works.
The venue closed in 2009 when the recession forced cuts in the city budget.
Now, the renovations come as tour promoter Live Nation prepares to take over the venue. The City of El Cajon entered into a five year deal with the concert company to manage the building. As part of the agreement, Live Nation will bring 50 events to the venue in 2019, and as many as 70 events by 2023. Live Nation also manages the House of Blues in San Diego and Mattress Firm Amphitheater in Chula Vista.
"We're not sure what it will be like," said Mayor Bill Wells. "We've never had this regular, steady diet of top name acts that are coming in. So nobody's quite sure how much this is going to have a ripple effect around El Cajon. But everybody thinks it will be positive."
The city is now spending $6.3 million to upgrade the facility. Improvements include new amenities like modern concessions, a more open entrance, and lobby area and new plush seating in the first few rows. The seating capacity for the main hall will also increase to 1,300. Part of the plan also calls for a brand new VIP Lounge at the back of the venue. The money for the project comes from the sale of the old police headquarters.
As for what kind of acts will fill the venue, Epperson said it's entirely up to Live Nation.
"It can pretty much be any type of act or band," he said, adding the city will let the experts decide. "But you can imagine the ones that are on their way up or on their way down will be coming to this size venue."
Smaller, local performances like school concerts and recitals will still be held at the venue, which Wells says is part of the community. With the upgrades, he said it should stay that way for a long time.
"We're in it to win it," said Wells. "We'll be successful with this."