Last Week, March 19

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Last week Rotarians held an off-site meeting at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Wendy Riggs hosted our tour of the Amphitheater. Wendy is the Director of the City Arts & Entertainment Division in which she oversees the operation of not only the Amphitheater, but also the Tuscaloosa River Market, and the Mildred Westervelt Warner transportation Museum located at the old Queen City Bathhouse.

There are various events that take place at the Transportation Museum, and also the River Market. The River Market is open from 7am – 12 Noon year round featuring freshly grown produce, locally raised beef and pork and a variety of home-made goods from area farmers and vendors. Beginning in May the River Market is also open on Tuesdays from 7am – 12 Noon through the fall. The River Market is available to host private events and also hosts public events, like the Christmas Movies etc. that were offered during the Holiday Season this past year.

The Transportation Museum also hosts events, and during the spring and fall hosts outdoor movies on the lawn. The Museum currently has a traveling exhibit from the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham that features Spider Martin’s photography that captures the March from Selma to Montgomery.

This is in conjunction with the 50th Commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. More events will follow throughout the year.

Wendy began with a brief history. The Amphitheater opened in 2010 to a sell out crowd and has had three successful seasons. This year we already have two confirmed shows (with the first – John Mayer already being sold out), and three acts not yet announced. There are 15 more shows lined up which are all expected to confirm. The next announcement will come on April 12th and is a Country act. Stay tuned!

The seating in the venue consists of the 100 section which is the “floor” and may be standing or set-up with chairs depending on the Artist’s preference.

Above this section you will find the Box Seats which have private seating and a server that takes care of any of their food and beverage needs. Just FYI – there are 10 seats available at this time in the box section (#26) for a company that would like to co-lease a 20 seat box! This year, iPads are being added for

ordering! Above the private boxes is the 200 section. The entire venue seats roughly 7,800.

Upgrades and improvements are always taking place to keep the venue “1st class” This year a new entrance is being added on the West side, and the wireless is being upgraded. The Mayor and City Council spent money for this to be a top notch facility and have plans in place to continually improve to remain one of the most sought after venues for performers to play. “We have a great reputation in the entertainment industry based on our facility – its location and the beauty of this riverfront venue” says Wendy Riggs. “We are being sought out by artists requesting Tuscaloosa over Birmingham and Huntsville!” The future may even hold a roof over the seats – and the Amphitheater was built to be able to have everything in place to do this if decided upon later.

Our Amphitheater was built as a state-of-the–art permanent facility. Training of permanent staff is always a focus. Currently two team members are in Norman, OK at the National Weather Service receiving training to formalize the Emergency Plan changes for this year.

The UA Film Department does all filming and photography for the events. The Amphitheater donates to the program in return for offering these hands

on experience to the students. Other Sponsors/Contributors include Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola, Box Seat holders and Select seat holders. The Hotel occupancy tax paid for the construction of the Amphitheater.

Red Mountain entertainment books all the acts, but the city remains as the Producer in order to control what types of acts can book into the venue. This is to keep the best interest of our citizens in our own hands. The City and Red Mountain has a great partnership. Red Mountain gets $4.00 off of every ticket sold – so the primary way the venue makes money is through Food & Beverage sales. This nets 55% of the necessary budget. To date the two seasons have operated in the black.

Wendy was asked about her schedule on a typical show day. She replied “We are here at 5am and we leave when the last person loads out”. This makes for a pretty long day! She was also asked about what strange things have happened, and the list ranged from bats in the curtains to all kinds of wildlife onsite!

Strange requests from artists were a yoga room for Kelly Clarkson to food requests such as all gluten – free or vegan menus. She said that she has not had many strange requests from the artists, but told of a few at the Fox Theater in

Atlanta – where Jerry Lewis made them paint his dressing room a different color, and destructive bands (whose names get around) like the Red Hot Chili Peppers who tore out an entire wall to make a larger room.

Wendy said their goal is to give these artists a great experience her in Tuscaloosa, because it is their “home-away-from-home”. They are on the road so much that they just want to feel comfortable and be well cared for. Nothing really unusual – just the same things we all want. 



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