The Local Spins countdown of 2018’s most-read stories continues with May’s inside look (photos, words, video) at Meijer Gardens’ upgraded outdoor venue. And even more improvements are on tap for 2019.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Local Spins continues its series counting down the website’s Top 10 most-read stories of 2018 with No. 7: Revisiting the buzz and reader interest in Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s first phase of renovations to its popular outdoor amphitheater. Local Spins gave readers a tour in photos, video and words. And more construction is well under way for 2019, with the concessions building torn down and being replaced by one that’s twice the size, including new restrooms. This story first was published on May 27.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
When Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park staged its first concert starring Art Garfunkel back in 2003, nobody was quite sure how the outdoor amphitheater might fare as a music venue.
Consequently, Meijer Gardens scheduled just 10 concerts that first summer in the tiered amphitheater, which listed a capacity of about 1,000 at the time.
My, how times – and that amphitheater – have changed.
The 2018 uber-popular summer concert series boasted 31 shows, with 17 of those concerts sold out by late May in a venue that seats 1,900 people.
And when the Tedeschi Trucks Band returned to Grand Rapids to kick off the 2018 series, that sold-out amphitheater had a dramatically different look.
Renovations that began immediately after last September’s final concert — part of millions of dollars of improvements and additions at Meijer Gardens — completely transformed the upper portion of that amphitheater with installation of 410 permanent folding seats for sponsors and VIPs.
RAISING THE AMPHITHEATER HEIGHT, RESHAPING PART OF THE LAWN SEATING AREA
The first thing concertgoers saw as they entered the amphitheater were a pair of sizable concrete walls, built to accommodate those permanent seats and significantly raising the overall height of the amphitheater. (The new seating area represents a 69 percent increase in the number of sponsored seats, from 242 to 410.)
Public relations manager John VanderHaagen noted that ivy and other greenery will eventually cover the wall, as well as the back of the stage.
The walls and higher amphitheater elevation, he said, would likely reduce sound volumes outside the venue. The revamped sponsor seating area also will include fixed locations for sound-mixing equipment as well as new VIP concessions.
In addition, the upper lawn area to the right as concertgoers face the stage has been reshaped “to allow additional room for guests,” VanderHaagen said, with some trees transplanted to other areas of Meijer Garden. “This area offers a great view of the stage and just to the left, a view of the sunset over the trees.”
VanderHaagen insisted that “no additional tickets will be sold” for concerts, thus ensuring that fans would have some additional elbow room for 2018 shows. There was also improved handicapped accessibility with larger seating areas for those guests.
IMPROVED BAND LOADING ACCESS, MORE RENOVATIONS TO COME
Completed on schedule, the renovations included improved access for bands moving equipment from their trucks all the way to the stage via additional ramps and concrete walks. The roof over the stage also was bolstered to increase the loading capacity of rigging needed for show production.
The improvements represented the first phase of renovations.
As soon as the 2018 series wrapped up, crews began working to tear down the existing concessions building and constructing a new facility that’s twice the size, featuring new restrooms that will serve those inside and outside the amphitheater. (Some of those restrooms will serve concertgoers lined up outside the venue before gates open for shows.) The project will include a new box office building and new artist green rooms.
UPDATE: As it turns out, the first concert in the renovated amphitheater on May 30, 2018 was a rain-shortened affair. An approaching rainstorm forced Meijer Gardens to move up the starting time for the Tedeschi Trucks Band, who played an hour and 15 minutes before the concert was called. Revisit the review, along with a photo gallery of the show in the revamped venue: Tedeschi Trucks Band impresses in rain-shortened, opening Meijer Gardens show.
VIDEO TOUR: Renovated Meijer Gardens Amphitheater – Phase I (May 2018)
PHOTO GALLERY: Meijer Gardens Amphitheater (May 2018)
More Stories About Meijer Gardens:
The 2018 Season of Concerts: https://localspins.com/?s=Meijer+Gardens
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC