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Zoo Amp officially under new (out-of-state venture capitalist) management…

I guess the next OKC Zoo Mold-o-Matic figurine should be of a human selling out to the man.

Back in October of last year, we were the only media outlet in the entire world to let people know the Oklahoma City Zoo was looking to switch up the operations and management of the Zoo Amphitheatre.

The move caught our attention because the Zoo gave negotiating preference to Save Live. It’s a California-based venture capital group that’s best known ‘round here for “rescuing” Tower Theatre, The Criterion and other local venues, as part of a rather successful attempt to commandeer and monopolize the OKC concert market.

The Zoo chose to work with Save Live over a couple of local options, including DCF concerts – a long-time local promoter that’s been successfully organizing and promoting concerts in the metro area for decades – and WPM management, a group organized by the people who managed the Zoo back when OKC residents booed Stevie Ray Vaughn.

After the report, I filed an open records request to view the proposals and then I looked them over, made some notes, and then, like I usually do, forgot about the whole damn thing.

The Oklahoma City Zoological Trust sure didn’t.

Six months after our report – which is the same amount of time it takes to walk back to the Zoo’s front gates from the Sanctuary Asia Exhibit – they finally announced Save Live will be the new managers and caretakers of the amphitheater.

Here are some details Via The Oklahoman:

OKC's Zoo Amphitheatre, 2101 NE 50, has been a mecca for music for more than 90 years, and on Wednesday the venue announced plans to continue that role under new management.

The Zoo Amp will be managed by SaveLive, which currently manages The Criterion, Tower Theatre, Beer City Music Hall and Ponyboy.

The venue will announce the 2024 summer season soon, according to a news release, and the facility is undergoing infrastructure updates before the season begins.

“The Oklahoma City Zoo and SaveLive share a vision and commitment to connecting Oklahomans with superb entertainment in a premier, and iconic venue," said Trevor Leonard, OKC Zoo’s chief operations officer, in a news release.

Yep, good news everyone!

The California-based venture capital group that made its mark by taking advantage of the pandemic’s effect on cash-strapped live venues – and is also being sued for fraud by a theater in California for making false promises, and also reneged on assurances given to Tower Theatre’s previous staff and operators – can totally be trusted, and shares "a vision and commitment to connecting Oklahomans with live music.”

It’s a shame we couldn’t find a local management group who wanted the same things!

Wait. We actually did.

Based on the original proposals I obtained last fall, the Zoo received three proposals to manage the Zoo Amp.

I’ve linked to all three of them below:

Save Live Zoo Amp Proposal

DCF Zoo Amp Proposal

• WPM Management

Although Save Live’s pitch was bigger and glitzier and built up to L.A. ad agency standards, it appeared DCF’s was the better deal for the residents of Oklahoma City – a.k.a. the people who own and fund the Zoo thanks to a generous 1/8th-a-cent sales tax allotment.

For example, DCF promised $2 million in immediate renovations to the facility, $400K in rent, and a $150K base + $1 per ticket royalty that would go towards a maintenance fund:

Save Live, on the other hand, only pitched $350K in rent, $0 base + $2 per ticket royalty, and $1.5 million in renovations that were spread out over 12 years – which is about the average lifespan of a cheetah:

Based on those two proposals, you think the Zoo would have gone with the local group that promised more money and immediate renovations, but nope. For some reason, they went with the venture capitalist group from California.

Obviously, the big question here is why?

“Patrick! Did you ever think that Save Live’s national profile, centralized operations and Beverly Hills address could bring in bigger acts? Wise up, dummy!”

I guess that’s a fair point, but the Zoo Amp is already pretty limited on the acts they can bring in due to its size and infrastructure issues.

If you ask me, I’d bet the same thing that guides most of these decisions – personalities, politics, and petty feuds – played the biggest role.


Save Live’s man on the ground is Ronnye Farmer, a developer, promoter and insurance salesman who built The Criterion in Bricktown – a cheap, cavernous, poorly laid out echo chamber that is one of the worst places in town to watch a concert. He sold out to Save Live and, from what I’ve gathered, has solid connections with the OKC Ruling Class brass that sit on the Zoo board.


According to the Ogle Mole Network, OKC Councilwoman Nikki Nice didn’t think DCF – which produced a ton of shows at the Zoo for the previous promoters – did enough to work with the East Side community that lives in and around the Zoo Amp. I don’t know if that’s true or valid, but I’m a big fan of Nikki. In fact, the last time we chatted was during a press event at the Zoo’s sea lion exhibit – something I don’t think I’m going to be invited to anymore.

Petty Feuds

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the local event production and concert promotion scene is about as catty, gossipy and cliquey as a batch of Real Housewives, with the various sects of promoters, security guards, sound guys and stagehands all getting along as well as zebras and tigers

I think there’s a chance the Zoo’s Executive Director – Dr. Dwight Lawson – may have gotten caught up in that side-stage drama, and allowed his personal feelings towards DCF – which I don’t think were great – lead to him taking an overall worse deal for OKC. Womp womp.

Anyway, I guess we’ll see over the next 10 years or so if the Zoo’s decision to go with greedy out-of-state operators who are looking to exploit and monopolize the OKC concert market for their own financial gain works out well for the Zoo, the City and the people who live there.

Until then, stay with The Lost Ogle. We’ll keep you advised.

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