When State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park in Buckhead opened for its annual concert season June 2, the facility unveiled the results of a $6 million renovation project.
The redevelopment plan, executed by Reeves Young LLC, a Sugar Hill-based construction company, includes 37 new bathroom stalls with automatic faucets with air conditioning and a revamped concession area and new kitchen, all near Gate 4, plus other upgrades to the nearly 7,000-seat amphitheatre, including larger cushioned box seats that each include a cup holder.
The project began in November and was completed a few days before the first concert, said Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta, the local division of the Los Angeles-based company that produces Chastain’s concert series. It was paid for by Live Nation, and for the past 30 years, a portion of the fees for each Chastain concert ticket ($2.50 this year) go to a fund that helps maintain the amphitheatre.
“It took a long time. It was a culmination of a long negotiation,” Conlon said of talks between Live Nation, the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which has performed there. “It raises Chastain to the level of type of facility it should be, one that Atlanta would be proud of. It enhances the park and the neighboring area.”
The new area where most of the renovations are located is named Cooley-Conlon Plaza, after Conlon and his longtime business partner, Alex Cooley, who died in 2015.
Other improvements include expanded menu options – for the first time, the amphitheatre will offer burgers, fries and grilled hot dogs, plus pizzas and frozen drinks – and the stage’s steel was raised by 6.5 feet “so we could better accommodate artists’ video screens and lighting systems,” Conlon said.
Another new feature is a set of three busts of artists who have previously performed at Chastain: Willie Nelson and the late Ray Charles and B.B. King. They were a gift from the city of Montreux, Switzerland, home of the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival and one of Atlanta’s sister cities.
“The city of Atlanta was looking for what to do with them and I suggested Chastain,” Conlon said. “All of those acts have played numerous times at Chastain.”
Two elevators and a ramp were added to make the amphitheatre compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which was approved decades after Chastain opened June 20, 1944. The amphitheatre has had two previous renovations in the past 30 years.
“Fifteen years ago, the Gate 1 concourse and annex for the catering room and kitchen and bathrooms were renovated,” Conlon said. “Prior to that, the stage renovation included putting a roof on and stone on the sides, plus new seats. That was in 1990.”
Rosa McHugh is executive director of the Chastain Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that protects and maintains the park that annually hosts Rock Chastain, a concert fundraiser, at the amphitheatre. She said she and the conservancy’s board members checked out the enhancements at a private tour Live Nation hosted May 31.
“I think they’re fantastic because they provide an opportunity for patrons to enjoy the show. There’s an extended kitchen, the bathrooms are air-conditioned and there’s not as many lines. I’ve heard in the past the lines were a problem,” McHugh said. “(The plaza) provides an area where you can visit with people before going to enjoy the show. The ADA accessibility will be a huge improvement for older patrons who were afraid of traversing the amphitheatre. So I think it will be great.”
Conlon said individuals who have attended Chastain’s 2018 concerts so far have been pleased with the renovations.
“A lot of this was geared toward the concertgoer,” he said. “Even the stage steel (improvement) gives the full experience for the concertgoer.”