Streaming under the awning extending from a newly constructed box office at the entrance to Pinewood Bowl on Thursday, some 3,000 Jake Owen fans had their tickets scanned and meandered down the sidewalk, emerging atop the amphitheater between a pair of closed brick concession stands acting as spotlight towers.
Some concertgoers took a left of the new sidewalk to line up around a beer stand set up on a cement platform. Others took an immediate right to check out the T-shirts hanging in the merchandise tent nestled under the trees in Pioneer Park.
Others gathered on the level, grassy area adjacent to the sidewalk for a drink and a chat before heading to their seats.
Although Owen fans might not have noticed the beer tent platform or remembered the lines that stretched from the merchandise stand to the sidewalk for past gigs. , it would be impossible to miss the upgrades that have transformed Pinewood Bowl into a hotspot for outdoor flying.
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“It feels like walking into a professional venue now, and not just on a stage in the park,” said Tom Lorenz, managing director of the agency that manages Pinnacle Bank Arena and events at Pinewood Bowl.
“The bowl itself will always be the draw, the calling card,” Lorenz added, “but having the new guest amenities at the top and making sure artists are supported behind the scenes has… provided what agents and customers expect from a place.”
The latest improvements concluded a multi-year, $1.79 million renovation project funded by accommodation taxes from the Lancaster County-led Visitor Improvement Fund.
These renovations, the first since the bowl was created during World War II, began four years ago with the construction of a backstage store and septic tank work.
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Then came the artists’ building which provides dressing rooms, showers and a green room for the artists, as well as the expansion of the backstage area to accommodate the trucks and buses that are part of each show.
The construction of the latest improvements, which cost $1.2 million, required extensive modifications to the bowl.
Filling in the orchestra pit, removing shrubbery and laying artificial turf right in front of the stage has changed the look of some shows, including last Sunday’s Jack White concert, the first at the Pinewood Bowl this season.
Two large diseased pines had to be removed to build the 20-foot-tall towers that will permanently house floodlights and replace the outdoor concession stand near the top of the bowl.
“We still want to keep the bowl surrounded by trees,” Lorenz said. “It still has it, even with the new construction and the removal of those trees.”
Earlier upgrades, paid for by ASM-Global, the company that operates Lincoln’s arena, and Mammoth, the promoter that puts on shows at Pinewood, lowered the sound mixing and lighting rig in the center of the bowl to allow more seats and attached steel frames. to the stage walls to hang curved speaker systems.
A major project remains in the step-by-step process to bring the 80-year-old bowl up to contemporary standards – replacing the stage’s metal roof.
The current roof, which was installed in the 1970s, is neither large nor strong enough to hang the lighting, video panels and other equipment integral to today’s touring productions.
A replacement has not yet been authorized, designed or funded, but it will be expensive and will likely require more than $1 million to build and install.
For now, recent changes should increase the capacity of the bowl from the current bar of 4,500 seats for seated concerts.
“We think we probably won a bit,” Lorenz said. “We certainly won in a general admission pit.”
Any changes to the seating configuration won’t be evident until next year. Tickets for the 2022 season are sold under the previous roster.
If next year’s seating capacity hits the gig industry’s magic 5,000, it could bring more shows to the bowl, which hosted an average of 10 shows a year from 2012, when the city approved alcohol sales allowing concerts to be held, in 2019.
A total of 14 shows were scheduled for Pinewood Bowl this year. Last month’s Styx/REO Speedwagon and Earth, Wind & Fire concerts were moved to the arena after construction-related runoff from heavy rain covered the top of the bowl with mud.
“It can increase the number of shows,” Lorenz said. “But it could really change the mix of shows, with some bigger artists that probably wouldn’t have been available before.”
Photos: Jake Owen connects with the crowd before the rain breaks are short
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