The 4,500 people who come to Pioneers Park to catch The Avett Brothers on Friday likely won’t see that they’re at a new, improved Pinewood Bowl.
That’s because the improvements are behind the scenes, hidden by the stage and the trees that ring the amphitheater.
The centerpiece of those improvements is a 3,300-square-foot rectangular building just east of the stage’s large concrete wall. Inside are six dressing rooms -- four large, two small -- each with a shower, a pair of large restrooms along with office space and a large “green room.”
The new building, which has direct access to the stage, replaces an old, green wooden trailer and a small building that was tagged the “women’s dressing room.” Neither of those buildings had showers or restrooms, nor were they air-conditioned.
That meant that most of the more than 70 artists who have played Pinewood Bowl in the past seven years stayed on their buses and often showered and dressed at their hotels miles away.
The new building was needed to keep shows coming to Pinewood Bowl and meet contractual requirements for amenities, including dressing rooms, showers and “green room” space for catering and meet-and-greet events.
On Wednesday, workers were moving furniture and other items into the artists' building. Some amenities, such as televisions in the green room, will be added over the next few weeks.
“Just having a shower, a cool place and clean place, that’s what we wanted,” said Tom Lorenz of SMG-Lincoln, the group that manages concerts at Pinewood Bowl and Pinnacle Bank Arena. “The guys at (the city’s Parks and Recreation Department) and the contractors have done a beautiful job. We’re doing some last-minute things. We’ll be ready to go Friday.”
And it will be used, said Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers.
“I think it makes a difference for the comfort of the band and the crew, for sure,” he said. “Do we need it? Not really. But we’ll take it, and we’ll, for sure, use it.”
Equally as important is the other major backstage improvement, a large plaza that will allow truck access to the stage for loading and unloading and plenty of parking for the trucks and buses that are part of a concert tour. The Avett Brothers show, for example, will have three trucks and four buses.
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The plaza, which took the place of a slope that made moving large equipment difficult, and artists' building will make show production easier, faster and safer, said production manager Don Adams.
“It will make all the difference in the world for me,” said Adams, who oversees the set-up and production of Pinewood shows. “I won’t get yelled at now. In 2010, I never thought we’d get here this quick. I figured it would be 15 years at least.”
The timeline moved up with support for the facility from the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city and its parks department and “especially the people of Lincoln,” Lorenz said. “The people have embraced this place and made it a venue where people come to shows that artists want to play.”
The $750,000 artists' building and $130,00 parking and loading plaza are part of a $1.79 million Pinewood Bowl improvement project to be paid for with lodging tax dollars distributed through the Lancaster County-directed Visitors Improvement Fund.
Other upgrades envisioned for Pinewood Bowl are a new concessions building ($200,000), spotlight towers ($100,000), modifications to the orchestra pit ($20,000) and VIP seats ($10,000).
There are more improvements that are needed to bring the 1947 structure up to today’s standards, including adding trusses to the stage and roof to be able to hang large videos screens and other production elements and adding some rigging points to the front of the stage to handle modern speaker systems.
But those are for the future. For now, the improved Pinewood Bowl is ready for its first concert, with all its trees -- save one on the east side of the stage -- intact after the May 7 storm.
Will the improvements help attract top-level artists to what is, in the touring industry, a small, boutique amphitheater?
It already has, Adams said.
“Just getting (Steely Dan’s Donald) Fagen is everything,” he said. “That man is so important worldwide and so respected in the music world. He’s coming here and they knew this would be here. They probably wouldn’t have come without it.”