NEW DIGS: The Amp Ballantyne is preparing for its first full season of programming under the direction of Northwood Office, a Charlotte developer. (Courtesy venue)

Small shed targets 12 concerts for 2024

The Carolinas’ biggest market has a new boutique amphitheater. The Amp Ballantyne, a 5,000-capacity outdoor music venue, fits snugly into Charlotte’s upscale Ballantyne neighborhood in the city’s southern tip,  just off the I-485 outer loop.

The Amp is part of a $100 million mixed-use development spearheaded by Northwood Office, a six-year-old Charlotte commercial developer.

The facility opened in September with a smattering of community events and ticketed shows with All Time Low, Suki Waterhouse and the Eli Young Band, a Nov. 11 concert which completed the initial two-month slate heading into 2024.

All told, Northwood expects to book about a dozen concerts featuring national acts at the facility next year, including JJ Grey & Mofro on April 18, the first show announced for 2024.

Six more concerts will be announced in the coming weeks, said Christina Thigpen, the developer’s senior vice president of marketing.

“We’re getting a lot of inquiries,” Thigpen said. “In the post-pandemic world, it’s more important than ever to have that outdoor experience. People want to get outdoors.”

Northwood officials said the project was driven by the need to create more entertainment options within a budding development that extends to retail shops and restaurants. In addition to the amphitheater, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Charlotte’s oldest and biggest craft beer destination, is expanding to Ballantyne with a 21,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor facility that opens next spring.

The Amp also serves as a community park for local residents apart from concerts, festivals and other events. The stage structure, designed by Sasaki, a Boston architect, is supported by modest concession and restroom buildings.

“It was important to start small and work our way up to build a (strong) reputation,” said Ted Mueller, Northwood’s senior vice president of IT and operations. “We worked with multiple parties on development and construction who are experts in venue operations. The resounding theme was ‘don’t screw it up out of the gates.’ Our (customer) ratings have shown that we haven’t.”

The Amp sits minutes from the South Carolina border, drawing customers from both sides of the state line. Initially, some local residents in north Charlotte have taken weekend “staycations” by booking rooms at two luxury hotels within walking distance of the amphitheater, officials said.

Surface parking is dispersed among several Northwood office buildings near the venue. There’s a VIP lot for 150 vehicles adjacent to The Amp.

BUSY IN BALLANTYNE: The Amp is part of a mixed-use development in south Charlotte. (Courtesy venue)

Thigpen said the community was hungry for a cultural destination to serve as an anchor for the development. The Amp fills that need with a facility that’s easily accessible. Most important, she said, it’s easy to exit, which serves as a competitive advantage compared with other Charlotte outdoor venues, where post-event traffic jams have long been a thorn in the side of concertgoers.

In May, Northwood hired Tim Kurek as The Amp’s operations manager. Kurek spent nine years with CSM Production, a Charlotte producer of special events, including concerts, and spent a short stint with Blumenthal Performing Arts, which runs multiple theaters in uptown Charlotte.

Kurek started as a stagehand in 1998 at Blockbuster Pavilion in Charlotte, now PNC Music Pavilion, and worked for the old Cellar Door and Clear Channel Entertainment in the early 2000s. In addition, Kurek worked at independent venues in town such as Tremont Music Hall before landing at The Amp.

“It’s not just a music venue,” Kurek said in an email exchange. “We want it to be used for a variety of programming. With our open, ample space, we can customize the experience based on event type. I love the fact that any child, teenager or adult can dream on that stage one day and then have a national recording artist living out that dream on the same stage the next day.”

Northwood is currently searching for a talent buyer and a food and beverage manager for The Amp. Tixr is the venue’s ticketing provider. DLS Events, a concessionaire which works with theaters, clubs and many other music venues across the country, runs the food service and splits revenue with Northwood. Best Management provides crowd management.

As it stands now, The Amp’s layout is a tiered seating system, laid out on artificial turf with sidewalks between those multiple levels. A grass berm is perched at the rear of the venue. There are no fixed seats. but the promoters that Northwood partners with on concerts have the flexibility to add reserved seating depending on the event. Most events over the first months of operation were general admission.

For swamp rock funksters JJ Grey & Mofro, with support from blues artist Cedric Burnside, the layout includes reserved seats in the lower tiers, plus GA on the berm and a pit fronting the stage. Tickets run from $60 a person to $220 a person for a VIP package. Local promoter MaxxMusic, owned by Gregg McCraw, booked the show at The Amp.

“Gregg is one of those local partners that have been great to work with,” Mueller said. “He cares about the art of the music and the quality of the fan experience, which is aligned with what we want as well.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.