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Axis Answers Questions About the New Amphitheater at White River State Park

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — When the Amphitheater at White River State Park opens this summer, there will be a new permanent stage and fixed seating. But that does not mean the lawn is going away, or that the general admission pit is disappearing. Representatives from Axis Architecture recently provided answers to frequently asked questions about the makeover of White River State Park:

Will there still be a lawn?

Yes, the new amphitheater at White River State Park will still have a significant amount of lawn space. Based on square footage, there will be room for approximately 4,000 concertgoers.

Will there still be a general admission pit?

Yes, there will be a non-permanent staging area up front. That means there will be open pit space at some performances, temporary seating at others. There is no permanent seating directly adjacent to the stage.

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What will the permanent seats be like?

There will be approximately 3,500 permanent seats in the new amphitheater space. The new folding stadium seats are designed to enhance the comfort of concertgoers and provide easier access for most people. You won’t have to hold your drink the entire time, either; the new seats come with cup holders.

Will there be video screens?

Yes, there will be two new LED video screens, one on each side of the stage. They will be roughly 12’ x 18’.

Is the stage blocking the view of the river?

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The new stage is technically a little bigger than the previous temporary one. However, the new stage will not block the view of White River significantly more than the temporary stage did.

What about accessibility?

We actively worked to create a space that was completely accessible to everyone. So, the lawn will be accessible, all the seating will be accessible and the general admission pit will be accessible.

Is this a multi-phase project?

Yes, the project has three distinct phases. Phase One, completed in 2019, included the design and construction of permanent restroom facilities. Phase Two, which is currently under construction, will add the stage house, artist amenity space, permanent seating, and additional permanent restroom facilities. We expect the second phase to be complete by June 2020. Phase Three involves the design and construction of a canopy, which will create covered seating.

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How will the new amphitheater attract more acts?

The new amphitheater will have more artist amenity space, which is always a draw for larger acts. Artists and their crews will be able to use several dressing rooms, shower facilities, and green rooms. Additional wing space also gives larger acts the ability to provide standout lighting and sound.

How much did the City of Indianapolis invest in this property?

City funds are not being used for the new amphitheater at White River State Park, as it is not city property. The White River State Park Commission (a quasi-state organization) and Live Nation are investing in the improvements.

What inspired the design?

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Before construction for Phase One started, the design team underwent a master planning process. We explored several arrangements: Where can the stage go? Where should the restrooms be? How can the site best be laid out? With client input, we ultimately decided to construct the permanent stage in the same location as the temporary one. We took budget and phasing into consideration. Constructability also played a part in the decision. There was a desire to reduce the costs associated with construction, as well as the construction schedule. We did this by using the existing grade and lawn to the best of our ability, instead of modifying the entire site.

Once we determined the site layout, we focused on the design. For us, it was important to create a “campus feel.” Meaning, we had to design something that respected and responded to the existing architecture. With budget and constructability in mind, the stage house became clean, simple, and subtle. The materials are robust and provide a sense of movement. The way the artist amenities and restroom building are arranged also draw your eyes through the architecture. That way, the stage and the performers are the focal point.

How will the White River State Park amphitheater be different from Ruoff?

White River State Park is said to be the only cultural urban state park in the country. Because of its downtown location, the amphitheater at White River State Park provides visitors with a different feel, a different experience, than other venues. Instead of weaving through a parking lot, concertgoers can stroll through a park, or along the canal. It’s a serene, yet urban, way to enter the venue. The architecture isn’t supposed to distract from the natural elements, either. It’s meant to be clean, smooth. The project isn’t trying to create another Ruoff; it’s trying to elevate an already unique venue to a place that is even more intimate and memorable.

Why is this project happening now?

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There are a couple reasons. Concert organizers wanted to attract more acts, yes. But it’s also true that other cities were already doing similar things. In order to compete with them, or get an act already planning a tour to add Indianapolis as a stop, a change had to be made.

Who is all part of the design team?

Our team comprises four Indianapolis-based firms: Axis, Circle Design Group, Fink Roberts & Petrie, and Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA). Also on the team are Kirkegaard Associates (acoustic consultants) and Theatre Projects (theater design consultants). Both Axis and REA are familiar with White River State Park — REA designed White River Gardens, while Axis designed the White River State Park Visitors Center — and have collaborated on dozens of projects, including the Julia M. Carson Transit Center and Switchyard Park.

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