Permanent venue at White River State Park could mean more concerts

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White River State Park amphitheater rendering

Concert operator Live Nation is expected to contribute more than $8 million for the $27 million proposed permanent stage at White River State Park and increase the number of acts at the venue every year.

White River State Park Development Commission Executive Director Carolene Mays-Medley told members of the State Budget Committee on Tuesday that the commission wants to add a permanent stage, seating, restrooms and an artist amenity building, in addition to other site improvements.

Every year, the stage at the park is built and torn down for concerts. This year, Live Nation booked 25 shows at the outdoor venue.

Mays-Medley said the improvements would allow the park to host other events in addition to concerts, such as press conferences and graduations for high schools and colleges.

She also expects the upgrades to help Live Nation attract more and bigger acts to the venue and sell more tickets. The commission has a cost-sharing agreement with Live Nation, so an increase in sales would be more revenue for the state, but how much of an increase is unknown.

“We don’t have a number, because we don’t know what concerts would be coming in the future,” Mays-Medley said.

Mays-Medley told the committee that the state would pay $8.75 million for the upgrades and Live Nation would pay $8.25 million. The other $10 million would come from donations.

The state’s funding would go toward infrastructure improvements, the stage and restrooms. The 2017-2019 state budget included $12 million for construction projects for the White River State Park Commission.

“The lack of restrooms is our No. 1 complaint,” Mays-Medley said.

Mays-Medley said a fundraising team will be formed to solicit donations, and Jim Isch, former chief operating officer for the NCAA and member of White River State Park Development Commission, will lead that effort. The donations will pay for the proposed canopy-style roof over the stage and seating area.

Live Nation’s funding would support the permanent seating, artist amenities and VIP lounge.

The first phase of the project is expected to include new restrooms at the existing visitor’s center, the stage house and other infrastructure. It would be completed this year or next, according to project documents.

The rest of the project would be included in a second phase, due to be completed by 2020.

The existing concert venue, the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park, has a capacity of 7,500 and has hosted concerts since 2004. The revamped venue is expected to have a total capacity of about 6,800, with 2,000 permanent seats. 

The State Budget Committee approved the project on Tuesday. 

State and local officials have discussed establishing a permanent concert venue along the White River for years. Most recently, Carmel-basd REI Investments had proposed a $30 million, 10,000-seat amphitheater at the former General Motors stamping plant site on the west side of the river. But in 2016, that project was called off after REI Investments could not secure funding for it.

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