Widely thought of one as the best performance venues in Summit County, the Lake Dillon Amphitheatre is undergoing a massive $8.4 million overhaul that's expected to wrap next summer.
On the shores of Dillon Reservoir, the amphitheater stands as a central piece to the town core, playing host to numerous events throughout the year, including Dillon's ever-popular series of free summer concerts that draw attendance figures in the thousands and bring a wide variety of acts to Summit County, ranging from funk and rock to country and jazz.
Dillon officials have long been looking to upgrade the venue, and town council approved a contract with JHL Construction on May 16. Construction began July 10. The work is expected to be finished in time for the Fourth of July festivities next year, according to town spokeswoman Kerstin Anderson.
Initial plans to redo the amphitheater drew strong criticism for their design elements, with a number of residents voicing concerns that it looked too modern and did not fit in with the town's character. Others raised issues that a larger amphitheater could block the picturesque views of the lake and nearby mountains.
“We’re looking forward to reopening next summer with a state-of-the-art facility.”Kerstin AndersonTown of Dillon spokeswoman
However, Anderson hints at the town's solution in a news release announcing the start of construction, saying that "the design we ultimately landed on is slightly smaller than original concepts and includes natural materials, such as wood and stone for the exterior."
Over the phone Thursday, she confirmed those decisions were made to address some of the fears previously voiced by local residents.
Altogether, the project includes a new stage, restroom and concession buildings, new lighting, earthwork and retaining walls, along with storm, sewer and utility work, and ADA-approved handrails, guardrails and ramps.
The old stage will be torn down, and a new performance area will be built in its place, only it will be pushed down the hill a little farther and moved back closer to the recpath, both of which should improve the lines of sight, according to the town.
The new stage will come with increased loading and unloading capabilities and have a greenroom for performers, opposed to the portable toilet they were previously asked to use.
The amphitheater will seat about the same number of people as the current facility does — approximately 3,500 — and the total number of restrooms will be increased.
"Given our natural boundaries, we will not be greatly increasing the capacity, but we will be making a big impact on use of space, flow and improving ADA accessible seating throughout the facility," Anderson said.
South of the new amphitheater will be a path that's ADA accessible, allowing people with disabilities to enjoy the shows from the top, middle or bottom of the facility. The upper level will include a concessions and festival plaza area.
"The overall dance space will increase, and the existing concrete seats will remain in place," Anderson added. "The grass seating area will be pushed back to provide a more gradual slope than we experience today."
The new amphitheater will also have a new space for parking up to 66 bicycles.
The total project cost is pegged at $8.4 million, and Dillon is paying for it through various channels, according to Carri McDonnell, the town's director of finance.
Those sources include an existing balance of $1.69 million earmarked for the Lake Dillon Theatre Company before the company moved into the new performing arts center in Silverthorne earlier this year.
Other sources include a $5 million loan from Alpine Bank, $800,000 in grant money from the Department of Local Affairs, $75,000 from Summit County government with some additional in-kind services, and $50,000 from The Summit Foundation.
The town has also kicked off a community fundraising effort to help pay for the new amphitheater and buy it a new sound system. For more about the fundraising effort or to make a donation, call 970-262-3403.
Dispelling one of the biggest misconceptions regarding the new amphitheater, Anderson said that the town will continue hosting its free concerts now through Sept. 2, but is shifting them from the amphitheater to Town Park while the work is underway. Some people mistakenly thought the town was ditching the concerts, Anderson said, and that is not true.
Construction is not expected to have major impacts on traffic, but crews will be using part of the Dillon Marina's parking for a construction staging area. Additionally, the town is not accepting reservations for use of the Marina Park Pavilion, which has become a popular location for family reunions, barbecues and small weddings.
"We're looking forward to reopening next summer with a state-of-the-art facility and continuing to provide the concerts everyone knows and loves at the Dillon Amphitheatre," Anderson said.