Blanket Improvement

It’s Finally Showtime for the New Volunteer Park Amphitheater

Years in the making, an outdoor arts venue debuts with a free summer concert series.

By Taylor McKenzie Gerlach July 1, 2022

The new ampitheater at Volunteer Park.

A brick slab no more.

Start saving your blanket spaces now: Community leaders will unveil the new Volunteer Park amphitheater this Saturday afternoon in a grand opening celebration.

The historic park’s first new building in over 50 years will usher in more diverse and safe community performances after a lengthy design and construction process. First on the docket is the Volunteer Park Trust-produced Summer Series at the Amphitheater—six free shows on Thursday evenings from July 14 through August 18.

From a newly ADA-accessible lawn, picnickers can watch local talent on a fully recreated stage. Food trucks will flank the park for each event, adding local nosh to the mix. Performances run the gamut from a Latin jazz concert to contemporary dance numbers like Whim W'Him and the Seattle Project. The new amphitheater will fill a gap as the only public venue in the Seattle area specifically designed to accommodate out­door dance performances with a custom, durable stage.

Other improvements brought about by the $3 million project include regrading the lawn to avoid the muddy mess of rainy winters, construction of all-gender bathrooms, and the addition of backstage storage space and an actor’s dressing room. A sleek roof ensures weather won’t curtail shows. Acoustically speaking, the amphitheater’s hat will send more sound out to the audience instead of up and backward toward the dense cluster of homes behind it.

Another new feature is a pivoting back wall. When it’s not in use for performances, the wall will swing out and lock in an open position, providing views of the park and addressing safety concerns that arose with the previous backstage area, which was hidden from view. The covered pavilion can also become a hub for community yoga classes or offer space for school groups to gather with protection from the elements.

The previous amphitheater was barely an amphitheater at all—an aging concrete-and-brick slab with a brick back wall. Performers had to provide their own tents for makeshift backstage dressing rooms, portable ramps to accommodate physical limitations, and power distributors for sound and lights. All of that has been replaced by a more accessible space.

Getting here was a long road. The Volunteer Park Trust hired architects for the project in 2015 and persisted through a concrete worker strike, exceedingly rainy weather, and pandemic-related supply chain holdups.

Let’s hope the amphitheater itself is just as resilient.

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