City considers proposal for Vina Robles Amphitheater

A North County winery plans to bring a 3,300-seat amphitheater to Paso Robles, an entertainment venue that would be one of the county’s largest and that its promoters say will put Paso Robles on the map and draw even more tourists to the wine country.

Promoters laid out their plans to the county’s Airport Land Use Commission this week for the would-be Vina Robles Amphitheater on an acre and a half of the 25-acre Vina Robles Winery at Mill Road and Highway 46 east of Paso Robles.

The commission weighed in because the amphitheater is a mile and a quarter from the Paso Robles Municipal Airport and in the flight path of planes that land there.

Commissioners expressed concern that the lasers and pyrotechnics some performers use could pose a problem for aircraft. Commissioners estimated that five or six planes would fly overhead during each concert.

The final decision on the project, which is in its early stages and not a done deal yet, will be made by the city of Paso Robles, which could insert conditions in the development plan that limit or ban lasers.

Tim Reid, who would be project manager should the amphitheater be approved, told airport commissioners the project would create hundreds of jobs, pumping money into the local economy.

“The economic impact goes far beyond the facility itself,” he said.

Architect Tim Woodle said the venue would likely open with 15 events annually, working up to 25 in five years, 35 five years after that and, ultimately, 50. “That (50 events) will not occur for many years to come and may never happen,” Woodle told the commission.

Woodle told The Tribune in a phone interview that if no snags arise, the Vina Robles Amphitheater could be open for business in late 2012 or early 2013.

The seating would be a combination of fixed seats, lawn and a space where folding chairs can go or concertgoers can stand.

Shows would take place between May and January. They would typically start between 8 and 9 p.m. and end between 10 and 11:30 p.m.

Bill Robeson of the county Planning Department said the only other outdoor venue in the county that is larger is at the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. The capacity at the Main Grandstand Arena there is 14,661, according to Tom Keffury of the Mid-State Fair.

Other large-capacity county venues — some indoor, some outdoor — include the Cal Poly Rec Center at 3,400; the Pozo Saloon and Avila Beach Golf Resort at approximately 3,000; the Alex Madonna Expo Center at 2,400; and the Christopher Cohan Center at 1,289. Forbes Hall at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande has a seating capacity of 617.