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Sound Check

More outdoor venues on tap for Wilmington

photo by Drechsel Photography, c/o Huka East

SUMMER CONCERT SEASON is in full swing, and by the next one Wilmington’s prime outdoor performance venue – GREENFIELD LAKE AMPHITHEATER (shown above hosting a recent Willie Nelson concert) – will no longer be an only child.

Slated to launch a full concert and events schedule in 2017, the PIER 33 band shell adds another al fresco option to the Port City’s music scene, with a third one potentially on the horizon.

The band shell, made up of sleek silver beams, was placed at the Port City Marina in March. While some small events have been held there, including one for St. Patrick’s Day, full-scale productions won’t happen until the structure’s covering is complete and related construction moves further along on the location overlooking the Cape Fear River, officials said.

Meanwhile, Greenfield Lake’s Hugh Morton Amphitheater has been steadily increasing its concert bookings over the past three years – and a recent policy change could help that trend continue. The Wilmington City Council updated the venue’s rental policy, which previously gave Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green priority from the end of May through June.

Now, up to four non-Shakespeare events can be held during the time frame. From twenty-three events in 2013, to thirty-one in 2014, and forty last year, this year’s number of events at the amphitheater could be even greater, following the policy revision.

Like the amphitheater, Pier 33 plans to host national – along with local – acts. A state-of-the art sound and light system is planned for the stage, and the site can hold 4,000 people once the venue is complete.

“This year we’re going to try to do a few (events), but we’re not set in stone due to the fact that we have such a construction site going on, and it’s a little hard for parking and stuff like that,” says Pier 33 sales and events manager Courtney Dooley.

"When we do big-name concerts, we need to have the band shell covered for lights and speaker purposes, so this summer will be a little slower,” says Courtney Dooley.

Another outdoor venue is being planned nearby, as part of the NORTH WATERFRONT PARK project. The city council is expected to formally adopt the park’s master plan later this year, but funding hasn’t been secured.

Twenty million dollars for the project is included in a $38 million parks bond referendum that could go before voters in November.

Though it’s too soon to foresee when that venue will open, city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert says plans call for an open backstage, complete with an adjoining artist green room.

Depending on the final design, the concert venue will accommodate 4,000- 7,000 people. Since the city’s Greenfield Lake Amphitheater only holds slightly more than 1,000 concert-goers, the two aren’t expected to contend with one another, officials say.

“The North Waterfront Park is not expected to have a negative impact on the amphitheater because the amphitheater has a much smaller capacity,” Talbert says. “If the (park) is built as outlined in the conceptual plan, it will attract entertainment companies with acts that would need – and often require before they will agree to appear in a city – a much larger facility than the amphitheater.”

In the meantime, the North Waterfront Park area will continue to be used for special events, such as April’s Wing Fling. As for Pier 33, a boat show is booked for September.  


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