The bar – and roof – has been raised.

In the cold, brutish winter months, a crew of workers from the Houston-based ALE HeavyLift worked to further pry open the maw of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Inch by inch, eight lifting motors placed at different pressure points under the stage’s roof slowly hoisted it into the air. A few hours and 607,000 pounds later, the roof is now 26 feet higher than it was previously, now standing at 65 feet tall, as opposed to 39 feet. 

This is just the most visible aspect of a total makeover for the amphitheater which will be taking place in two phases over the course of the next year. The first phase focused on “infrastructure and back-of-house areas”, according to a press release. The second phase will focus largely on improving guest experiences for regular concert-goers and the Very Important Persons who walk among us. Phase one is already wrapped up, and phase two will begin after this year’s festivities end. The cost of this construction project totals in at about $50 million. 

The stage itself is now removable and features flat floor seating directly in front of the stage. When completed in 2020, the stage will feature six high-definition video screens. 

The amphitheater will commence a game of musical chairs, rearranging its 23,000 seat venue for better sight lines and an overall improved concert experience. Summerfest says plans also include an accessibility upgrade, which includes ADA seats, widened pathways and an elevator to all concourses.

Some of the biggest current upgrades focus on artist amenities. 19 new dressing rooms have been added to the venue; in addition to this, new offices and production spaces offer more room for coordination and collaboration. Nine loading docks will be able to accommodate up to 13 semi-trucks and tour buses, expanding the amphitheater’s ability to host large-scale tours.

By Summerfest 2020, the venue will also feature newly expanded concourses with increased food and beverage options. While the vendors for the new concourses have yet to be announced, Summerfest says they hope this will be conducive to shorter lines and faster service. Restrooms will also be refurbished as part of the second phase.  

Dynamic views and exclusive areas are also being promised to VIPs and sponsors. 

“For sponsors and venue supporters, the new American Family Insurance Amphitheater will provide access to new, outdoor private areas offering incredible views of the BMO Harris Bank Pavilion, Lake Michigan and the downtown Milwaukee skyline…” Summerfest says. They go on to say that the redone theater will feature a dedicated VIP entrance and private VIP areas with bars, lounges and restrooms.

The hope is the bigger venue will catch bigger fish and give the Big Gig bigger gigs. 

“The Amphitheater has seen its share of legends over the years, and by raising the roof, we will continue to attract top talent ensuring Summerfest remains a driver of economic impact and tourism for Wisconsin,” says Don Smiley, President and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. in a press release.

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