Concert season opens on Tuesday at Hayden Homes Amphitheater with a record number of shows on the roster. But not everyone is happy about the other changes awaiting concert-goers.
Sounds of drills, rolling wheels, and a flurry of voices filled the air at the amphitheater on Monday in advance of opening day.
“We finished up Phase II of construction,” said Old Mill District Marketing Manager Beau Eastes. “I think what people will notice first off is we have accessibility pathways. We had in the past, but more so than ever before, which is going to be fantastic.
Clean pathways now run between the aisles of seats in the front of the lawn.
Eastes also noted the new wood-arch entrance, now set up on the path next to the river.
“It’s going to get people into the venue quicker,” he said. “It also pays homage to the timber and the mill history here in the Old Mill District and Bend in general.”
Gates have also been pushed back to allow for more wiggle room in the space, which boasts a capacity of 8,000.
More underground power systems have also been added throughout the venue, to allow more plug-ins for lights and more Wi-Fi.
The sound booth, which sits in the middle of the lawn, is also shorter than in years past to increase visibility.
The changes are meant to improve the experience for those attending ZZ Top on Tuesday and the 51 other concerts this summer.
One big alteration this year — guests won’t be able to bring their own chairs.
“They can rent chairs for the majority of shows and people can also bring in small towels or yoga mats for the majority of shows,” Eastes explained. “As we’ve come up to industry standards, that’s all part of that process.”
Lyn Williams from Sisters went to six concerts last summer and brought her own chair for each one.
“We’re all in our 60s, so having a chair is a really nice thing,” she said. “I have a friend who had a hip replacement, I’m sure he appreciates not having to sit on the ground.”
She was told that even chairs that sit on the ground with back support would not be allowed.
“I just mostly think it’s a burden for other people. If everybody already has their low chairs, is this about making more money? I don’t know,” Williams said. “It just seems like an added layer that’s just a hassle for everybody and a bit of a bummer.”
The new policy makes her and some of her friends hesitant to purchase any more tickets, although she still plans to attend the three concerts for which she already purchased tickets.
“I just think for the community at large, it’s just something that maybe they need to think about, especially with people that are pregnant or have bad knees or have a bad back, it’s hard for them to sit on the ground for two to three hours,” Williams added.
For around six of the 52 total shows, chairs will not be available for rental either due to space concerns.
Amphitheater staff believes the change will help reduce hazards this season for their lineup of shows.
“The diversity of music this year is more than we’ve ever had before,” Eastes said. “We’ve got everything from EDM, some country superstars in Kenny Chesney and The Chicks, standup comedy, Jim Gaffigan is coming here.”
He recommended that if folks want to know what they can and cannot bring to specific shows, to visit bendconcert.com.
Tuesday’s ZZ Top concert begins at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.