For a certain segment of Atlantans, attending summer concerts at Chastain Park Amphitheatre is as expected as getting stuck at the airport in July because of a thunderstorm delay.
It is going to happen, and usually, often.
After this season, the popular 6,900-capacity venue, which turns 73 on June 20, will receive a much-needed $5 million-plus facelift.
Construction will commence Nov. 1 after Chastain wraps its 2017 run of shows, which includes a collection of veteran pop stars (Paul Simon, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, the Moody Blues), hipster acts (Dispatch, 2Cellos) and the occasional comedian (Brian Regan, Impractical Jokers starring the Tenderloins); a second wave of performers will be announced soon.
“We’ve done no meaningful renovation in 20 years,” said Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta, which books and manages the amphitheater and is paying for the makeover. The venue is owned by the city of Atlanta. “It was just time. We were getting more artists who didn’t want to play because of production challenges. It’s all about lighting systems.”
One primary obstacle was the size of the stage, which prevented some acts with large-scale productions, such as Earth, Wind & Fire, from comfortably installing their gear.
Fans likely won’t notice, but the steel on the stage will be raised 6 feet to provide additional space.
What fans will detect, however, is a complete restructuring of the bathrooms and catering area to the left of the stage (when seated in the orchestra).
Conlon said the distinctive green buildings are originals dating back to the 1940s, and gave a frank, unarguable assessment of the bathrooms: “They’re shot.”
In all, three buildings in that section of the amphitheater grounds will be gutted and rebuilt — the bathrooms, the catering and the concession stand.
The seats in the bowl of the amphitheater won’t be affected, but the renovation will bring upgraded seating to the boxes flanking the tables usually stationed on the floor.
Nothing will change with the bathrooms or concession area near Gate 1 and the box office since they received an update about a decade ago.
The venue will be ready in time for the season kickoff in April 2018.
As for Chastain’s signature accouterments — the table setup and ability to tote in food and drinks — they aren’t going anywhere. Except, of course, if the artist doesn’t want the distraction and mandates a non-table performance.
But be assured, said Conlon with a smile, “we’ll never change that.”