DOWN BY THE RIVER: The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and its subsidiary Music & Event Management plan to redevelop the Coney Island site into a new amphitheater to replace Riverbend Music Center. (Courtesy venue)

$118M Outdoor Amphitheater To Be Built On Coney Island Site

After servicing families for more than a century, Coney Island in Cincinnati is no more, but the act of entertaining guests will live on at the site as the property’s new owners announced the development of a new $118 million outdoor amphitheater.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and its subsidiary Music & Event Management announced the project in December and plan on creating what they call a “first-of-its-kind venue” in the greater Cincinnati area.

Their acquisition of all assets of Coney Island Inc., which owned an amusement park that shuttered its doors on Dec. 31, paved the way to build on the banks of the Ohio River.

Coney Island, a local institution dating to the 1870s, will be reshaped to host concerts and festivals. The new venue, targeted to open in spring 2026, will complement indoor amphitheater PNC Pavilion and Riverbend Music Center, both of which are also operated by Music & Event Management and are within walking distance from the Coney Island site. The company’s plan is for that region to become a music and entertainment campus boasting three venues that can host large-scale events with two outdoor stages (Riverbend and the new amphitheater) and an indoor stage (the 4,100-capacity PNC Pavilion).

UPPING THE CAP: Project officials said the new outdoor venue will have up to 40% more reserved seating than the Riverbend Music Center to accommodate the increasing demand for live events. (Courtesy venue)

“It allows us to do events like festivals, but instead of having temporary stages, we’re going to have three permanent stages with a permanent infrastructure of restrooms, concession stands and parking already there,” said Rosemarie Moehring, Music and Event Management’s director of marketing. “It’s going to be a unique experience.”

Though Riverbend remains in CSO and Music & Event Management’s plans, the beloved venue will be supplanted by the new amphitheater as the ultimate outdoor summer destination for artists.

Until that time, it’s business as usual for the 40-year-old shed, with Janet Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alanis Morissette and Creed scheduled to perform this summer. Riverbend has a long history of hosting superstars, including Ed Sheeran, Dead & Company, Drake and Jimmy Buffett.

CSO and Music & Event Management envision a larger, outdoor venue with a capacity between 21,000-23,000. Riverbend’s capacity is 20,500. The amphitheater is being designed by GBBN, which has an office in Cincinnati.

“The idea behind the new amphitheater is with all the advances in technology and the concertgoers’ demands and expectations, we want to create that elevated concert-going experience,” Moehring.

MAKING NEW MEMORIES: Riverbend Music Center, which hosted Avril Lavigne in 2008, is a Cincinnati institution that has been a stop for some of music’s biggest acts, including Ed Sheeran, Dead & Company and Tom Petty. (Photo by Joey Foley/FilmMagic)

Riverbend Music Center has 5,000 reserved seats, and Moehring said officials looking to expand that number for the new facility, which will include VIP club seats, an improved sound system, better views and elevated amenities.

Like many other markets, Cincinnati has grown as the world transitioned to normalcy following shutdowns and restrictions due to the pandemic. CSO and Music and Event Management want to entice artists to visit the city and accommodate more fans.

“There’s a demand,” Moehring said. “We have 10 shows on sale for Riverbend and pretty much all of the reserved seats are sold out six to eight months in advance. We want to go above and beyond anything Cincinnati fans have become accustomed to when it comes to outdoor music venues.”

The goal is to keep Cincinnati in the conversation for touring artists on the same level as Chicago, Detroit and New York.

“We don’t want to be a question for artists of whether they should play Cincinnati; we want it to be more of, ‘When we play Cincinnati,’” Moehring said. “By building this new venue, that is going to make us a must-play destination for all artists.”

All told, Music & Event Management operates five venues in Cincinnati, extending to the Andrew J. Brady Music Center which opened in 2021, and the historic Taft Theatre.

“I’ve been in this industry for 22 years, and I never thought I would ever say, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to go to another concert. After the pandemic, it made us appreciate things more and made artists appreciate the whole experience more, too,” Moehring said.