The city of Willmington’s $35 million Riverfront Park and Amphitheater officially opens this weekend with a Fourth of July grand opening celebration starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The amphitheater, a Live Nation venue managed by Venue Nation, can hold 7,200 people – 2,400 seated and 4,800 on the lawn. Within minutes of opening ticket sales, the amphitheater’s first act, rock band Widespread Panic, sold out all three of its July shows.
The city bought the 6.6-acre tract for the park in 2013. Located along the Northeast Cape Fear River near the Isabel Holmes Bridge, the park also will include a playground, an interactive water feature, green space, plazas, gardens and natural areas in addition to the amphitheater.
During the July 4 opening event, live bands and comedians will perform and food and beer from local brewers will be available, along with children’s activities and more, according to the city of Wilmington.
The park will close at 8 p.m. to allow people to find another spot for viewing the Fourth of July fireworks (you can’t see them from the park) at 9:05 p.m.
Recently, Grant Lyman, president of Live Nation Carolinas, answered questions via email about Live Nation’s involvement in the amphitheater:
GWBJ: Why did Live Nation want to work with Wilmington on the Riverfront Park Amphitheater?
"Over the last decade, we have seen our boutique amphitheater portfolio growing rapidly throughout the Carolinas, both in terms of show count and attendance. Fans and artists really enjoy the intimacy of a 5-8K capacity amphitheater experience. We have been watching the incredible volume and performance of concerts at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater for many years, which proved that Wilmington is a strong music market with diehard fans who value live entertainment. When the opportunity to work with the city on a downtown, waterfront amphitheater was presented, we knew it would be too special of a project to miss out on."
GWBJ: Why did Live Nation want to chip in its own money, $4 million, for the venue?
“By contributing additional money, we were able to help enhance the overall project and put additional focus on some of the backstage amenities that we feel are important for the artists’ experience when they come to the venue. We increased the size and scope of the back of house facility and added a rooftop VIP platform that will be an amazing place to watch the show. Contributing our own money is also a reflection of our commitment to the project, and to the City of Wilmington, that we are all-in on being great partners and operators for many years to come.”
GWBJ: Why do bigger acts want to come to Wilmington?
“Artists are always looking for new venue opportunities and ways to connect with their fans outside of the major markets. Wilmington is a rapidly growing city with a very strong music scene, and its location along the coast places it perfectly for routing opportunities south into Georgia and Florida, or north up through Raleigh, Charlotte or into Virginia. Being right around 7,000 capacity also makes it a great play for emerging artists who are on their way up, as well as large artists who may draw bigger numbers in majors, but can still draw strong numbers in secondary markets. Ultimately, the experience and culture that Wilmington offers will be the biggest selling point for artists to add Wilmington to their tours in the future.”
Find out more about Riverfront Park online in a WilmingtonBIz Magazine article and on WilmingtonBiz Talk with Amy Beatty, a city of Wilmington official who spearheaded the park's development.