New look at Merriweather makes its debut tomorrow

$750,000 face lift aims to keep site competitive

May 11, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Merriweather Post Pavilion launches its season tomorrowwith a new look intended to keep the concert site competitive with other venues.

A $750,000 renovation has been completed just in time for the first concert featuring the alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails. The face lift also included several new amenities, such as covered boxes costing up to $14,175 that sold out in weeks.

"Our kids are very popular now that we have box seats at Merriweather," said Bill Pullin of Ellicott City, who paid about $9,000 for a box that offers him seating at all the shows, wait staff service and access to the VIP deck. "We now have good, preferred seating for the shows."

The renovation comes at a time when the 33-year-old open-air theater is competing regionally with state-of-the art arenas and stadiums such as the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Va., MCI Center in Washington and PSINet Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. SFX Entertainment Inc., the largest concert promoter in the country and manager of Merriweather, funded the changes, which include a new satellite dish that will alert pavilion officials about adverse weather that could affect concerts.

Jean Parker, general manager at Merriweather, said new lighting has been added, along with more parking spaces for the disabled. A main plaza area has been expanded as well as the VIP club deck, which now has video monitors.

Parker said a few final touches are being added, including a canopy, which is scheduled to be put up today, and a stage for up-and-coming performers, which is to be constructed May 18.

In March, the Howard County Council, acting as the liquor board, approved an increase in the number of liquor stations at the pavilion and also approved the sale of liquor in the new VIP seating area.

Parker said the most excitement has been generated by the dozen four- and six-seat boxes that allow those ticket-holders to enjoy the acts in a comfortable setting while waiters tend to their food and beverage needs.

"The boxes are going to make their debut," Parker said. "They sold in record time with very little marketing. It was all by word of mouth."

Pullin, owner of Environmental Maintenance Inc. in Ellicott City, said his box will be used to reward employees, entertain clients and satisfy his household's musical tastes, which range from Britney Spears to Jimmy Buffet. Pullin, whose company does work for Merriweather, said it also was a way to give back to the venue.

"We do landscaping, trash pickup and parking for them, so we wanted to do it as a way of being supportive of them like they have supported us over the years," Pullin said.

Kip Puiia, a regional media marketing manager for Best Buy, said his company did not buy a box this year at the Nissan Pavilion and instead bought one at Merriweather. The box seats will be used for contests and employee perks, he said.

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