LONG ISLAND LIFE: Improvements to the history Northwell At Jones Beach Theater include a new entrance, restrooms and food and beverage spaces. (Alive Coverage)

After a multimillion-dollar renovation that started up in 2018 and faced pandemic delays, the landmark Northwell at Jones Beach Theater in Nassau County has opened for the summer season with a makeover.

The renovation project, a collaboration between New York State Parks and Live Nation, is the largest investment in the history of the venue, which dates back to the 1930s. Features include a new entryway for guests, upgrades to 7,000 seats and new premium seating experiences. Also new are added restrooms and food and beverage outlets, including a plaza the size of a football field, with bells and whistles like new LED screens throughout.

There’s even a dedicated beach for visiting artists and their crew to use throughout their stay, serviced by a dedicated Jones Beach lifeguard. To that end, all dressing rooms have been completely renovated and production load-in areas have been expanded to accommodate more trucks and buses.

Kicking things off this season June 29 was Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival, followed by performances from Dave Matthews Band, Alanis Morrissette, Third Eye Blind, Train and more.
Tom See, president of Venue Nation, which operates the 13,850-capacity venue, gave VenuesNow some additional insight into the project, which included nearly two years of construction.

Live Nation’s Tom See speaks at a media event June 27, debuting renovations at Jones Beach. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation)

VenuesNow: How long has this project been under way?
Tom See: Since 2018, we were looking at Jones Beach and our lease negotiation with New York Parks was coming up. We sat down and laid out an amazing vision for the property. It has such historic and iconic chapters that date back to the ’30s, then transitioned into a theater in the ’50s, then into a concert venue. For generations to come, we want it to be a bucket list concert venue, one that people from all over the world want to play, and we worked for two years to solidify the plan. The pandemic happens. Then, right after the pandemic, we came blazing in like, “Let’s get this done.” It’s probably the fastest build that I’ve seen happen at a venue.

You have a background in hospitality. How did that serve you on this current project?
When we looked at what to do with Jones Beach, first we said we have no sense of arrival here. Every amazing theme park tends to have the sense of arrival, that Instagram-able moment you want to be in front of and capture with your family and friends. So we built an amazing entry portal, very clean lines with a mid-century look that ties incredibly well with the venue where you get this awesome sense of arrival, then you’re welcomed into this community courtyard that’s about the size of a football field. Now, fans walk in and have this entire cool courtyard to enjoy food and beverage, sit down in plenty of chairs and tables with umbrellas and get that bay breeze. When we open doors two hours early, I can tell you now fans will want to come in and hang out because we’ve set up a really cool environment for them to do so.

From the moment artists are arrive, they’ll find they can park double the amount of buses they could before. The truck component is also advanced now, too. We used to have crews load out one by one without any lifts or ease. Now, it’s going to be fluid for them to load in and out, with ramps that the trucks will back off into. When the crew gets off their buses and artists get off their buses, they’re instantaneously greeted with their own exclusive beach for the day with their own personal lifeguard from Jones Beach and a whole lot of games and toys and hammocks to just relax.

What are you most excited about at this venue?
What we’ve done here is now provided (artists) with just another reason to pin the map on Jones Beach. They’re coming out to Long Island, and it’s a totally different market than Manhattan. I really want to stress to the industry that 75% of the people who come to a show here are in the two surrounding counties of Long Island. They don’t come from other places and they don’t tend to go into Manhattan to watch a show. We’re trying to elevate the food game. We’ve got amazing chef partners, Michael and Bryan Voltaggio. Chef Brooke Williamson has a fish and chips concept that we’ve launched here. There’s lobster rolls, tuna poke, incredible dips and spreads with freshly made local ingredients, the Long Island bagel chips that I’m going to have to bring back to California with me.

BEACH VIP: Guests enjoy an Enhanced Seaside VIP Club at Jones Beach Theater. (Alive Coverage)

Live Nation operates dozens of North American amphitheaters. Have there been challenges in that overall business this year?
I can’t say there’s been any challenges. People want to be outside. That community aspect of it I think is top-tier. It’s one of the most affordable entertainment values out there. We did our concert week where we provide $25 tickets to fans, so a family of four can go see an iconic artist for 100 bucks. That is incredible value for an experience you really can’t get with other entertainment companies.