Artist rendering of the new Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, Tenn., set to open July 30 with a performance by Eric Church. The city-owned venue is being operated by Live Nation.
Live Nation Entertainment and the City of Nashville announced last week details behind the opening of Ascend Amphitheater, the city's new Live Nation-operated amphitheater located along the banks of the Cumberland River downtown.
Information released during a press conference held at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony and just blocks from the new 6,800-capacity venue, included a multiyear naming rights contract between the amphitheater operator Live Nation and Ascend Federal Credit Union.
Live Nation was approved by the City of Nashville government last December to manage, market, operate and program the venue. In the contract with the city, Live Nation was responsible to secure the naming rights. Live Nation has a 10-year contract with Nashville and a 10-year contract with Ascend Federal Credit Union.
Other information disclosed during the press conference was the plan for grand opening weekend. Ascend Amphitheater will debut July 30 with a solo performance by Eric Church. Chicago & Earth Wind and Fire is set for Saturday, Aug. 1.
Then, from 1-5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 2, the City of Nashville and Live Nation will host a free open house for the community that will include tours of the amphitheater and performances by local bands and DJs.
Officials also released the concert performances for the remainder of the 2015 season. The list revealed an array of musical genre with performances by headliners such as Smashing Pumpkins & Marilyn Manson's End Times Tour, Idina Menzel, Widespread Panic, Phish, Steely Dan and more. (A full lineup is below.)
On hand for the announcements were Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Bob Roux, president of North American Concerts for Live Nashville; Caren Cabriel, Ascend president and CEO; Nashville Symphony President and CEO Alan D. Valentine, and Director of Metro Parks and Recreation Tommy Lynch.
“The newest addition to Music City’s live music scene will get off to a great start with a concert from Eric Church, who represents what’s great about Music City,” Mayor Dean said, during the press conference. “His songs can’t be confined to just one genre; he draws from country, rock and other types of music that help make the scene here in Nashville so vibrant and eclectic.”
Ascend Theater will feature 2,300 reserved seating and 4,500 lawn seats. It also will feature a large 100-foot-by-60-foot stage with a 40-foot vertical opening.
The venue is being constructed with environmentally sustainable features such as geothermal heating and cooling, green roofs, solar power and rainwater collection.
“Ascend Amphitheater is located in Riverfront Park, on the bank of the Cumberland River and overlooks the Nashville Skyline,” Roux said, following the press conference. “This site will always be a park first, making the venue and its vistas very unique. With only 30 available commercial concert dates each year between April and October, we believe each of those 30 dates will be in fairly high demand, which in turn will drive a very high profile and diverse season of terrific artists year after year. You put a string of these great seasons together, as we expect to, and the venue is on a path to earn an iconic standing along with some of the other great performance spaces across America.”
In addition to hosting major contemporary concerts each season, Ascend Amphitheater will become the outdoor home to the Grammy-award winning Nashville Symphony.
It also will become the new home for Music City's biggest events, including the annual July 4th celebration, “Let Freedom Sing.” In addition, the New Year’s Eve event will also attempt to incorporate use of the space.
Ascend Amphitheater is part of Phase I of Nashville's riverfront transformation project. This is the West Riverfront Park that includes about 11 acres along the west side of the Cumberland in downtown Nashville. It will include a civic park, over one mile of multiuse greenway trails, a dog park, ornamental garden, WiFi access, and exercise and sports facilities, including two basketball half-courts, and a 1.5-acre event lawn called The Green.
The city designated $35 million for the riverfront development of the west bank, which includes the construction of the amphitheater. The Metro Development and Housing Agency reallocated another $7.1 million for a flood wall along the riverfront promenade.
Minutes from the November, 2014, board meeting of Metro's Department of Parks and Recreation spelled out details of the Live Nation agreement with the city.
The minutes state: “Live Nation will pay Metro $400,000 per year plus a portion of ticket and concession sales. Live Nation will build and pay for some enhancements to the amphitheater at a cost of $1.5 – $1.75 million.”
The ticket sale portion agreement states that Live Nation will pay Nashville $2 per ticket for each of the first 150,000 tickets sold in a calendar year and $5 for each ticket sold beyond 150,000.
No financial information regarding the agreement between Live Nation and Ascend was disclosed. Through the promotional products and services and advertising benefits that this marketing partnership is providing, Ascend will extend the knowledge of their services and brand as a whole to music fans and potential members.
The team overseeing the project includes:
— Project and Development Management: Commonwealth Development Group/Pillars Development, LLC
— Design: Hawkins Partners, Inc., Smith Gee Studio, and an internationally renowned team of performance design professionals including Hodgetts + Fung, Jaffe Holden and Schuler and Shook, among others.
— Construction Management: SKANSKA/SRS
Tickets to the inaugural concert season go on sale starting April 30.
The concert schedule for 2015 at Ascend Amphitheater is: Phish, Aug. 4; Jill Scott, 5; Counting Crows with Citizen Cope and Hollis Brown, 7; Steely Dan with special guest Elvis Costello, 8; The Smashing Pumpkins & Marilyn Manson, 9; NEEDTOBREATHE, Switchfood, Drew Holcomb and Colony House, 14; Idina Menzel, 15; Peter Frampton & Cheap Trick, 16; Sublime with Rome, Rebelution, Pepper and Mickey Avalon, 18; Australian Pink Floyd with LedZeppelin2, 22; Old Crow Medicine Show, 28; and Under the Sun Tour, 29.
Starting up in September: ZZ Top with Blackberry Smoke, Sept. 1; Widespread Panic, 5 and 6; Daryl Hall and John Oates, 14; Americana Fest on the Riverfront (Presented by AEG Live), 19; Lynyrd Skynyrd, Oct. 2; Chris Tomlin (in partnership with Awakening Events), 8; and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals with Lake Street Dive (in partnership with NS2).
Interviewed for this story: Karl Dean, (615) 862-6461; Bob Roux, (310) 867-7197