VAIL — As winter transitions into spring throughout the Vail Valley, the pace of construction at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is increasing thanks to the venue’s second phase of renovations.
The amphitheater is scheduled to officially reopen for the summer season on June 17 with the kickoff performance of the Hot Summer Nights free concert series.
“The architects of the Ford Amphitheater never intended for it to ever be finished,” said Harry Frampton, chairman of the Vail Valley Foundation’s board of directors. “They envisioned a facility that would continue to evolve, based on the needs of our guests and community. With that in mind, we are truly excited for the completion of phase two of the Ford Amphitheater enhancement project.”
Longtime local design firm Zehren and Associates was selected by the town of Vail and the Vail Valley Foundation to oversee the amphitheater renovation in 2011. The first phase of the renovation, completed in 2013, focused on improvements within the venue, including new terraced lawn seating, new exterior materials, signage and furnishings and a new restroom building at the east entrance. The second phase furthers the world class experience, bringing improvements to the amphitheater’s main entrance, adjacent to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
A NEW ENTRANCE EXPERIENCE
Designed to provide a new entrance experience and additional shelter from inclement weather, the new structure, dubbed “The Lobby,” will serve as a social gathering point prior to entering the amphitheater. Ticket and bag checking will be facilitated at this point in order to allow for smooth entry to the venue.
Unique amenities contained within the structure include a mini-stage that can accommodate pre-show performances, a new concession station and restrooms that will serve Ford Park on a daily basis during the summer season.
A perimeter of informal boulder seating walls bordered by rich alpine landscaping completes the space, tying it to the natural environment of Ford Park.
The lobby will be covered by a specially-designed tensile membrane canopy structure. By nature of its orientation, dramatic shape and soaring forms, the canopy will become a visual icon that not only identifies the amphitheater’s entrance but is visible from areas within Ford Park as well.
Zehren’s team of architects, planners and landscape architects, in collaboration with specialty contractor Birdair, developed the canopy design concept and fine detailing specifically to meet the unique needs of the Ford Amphitheater project. Based in Amherst, New York, Birdair has developed over 1,500 projects in 35 countries, including contributions to performing arts centers such as the US Capitol Band Shell, Sun Valley Music Pavilion and the Aspen Music Festival.
FORD FAMILY TRIBUTE SCULPTURES
The lobby will also house the Ford Family Tribute, a series of symbolic sculptures and interpretive elements intended as a new landmark in the town of Vail to celebrate the legacy and influence of President and Mrs. Ford and their family. Designed and created by Chevo Studios in collaboration with Zehren and Associates and the Vail Valley Foundation, the Ford Family Tribute is strategically located along the entry sequence into the facility and within the new lobby.
Based in Denver, Chevo Studios specializes in the creation of vibrant public spaces. Lead artist and stone carver Andy Dufford has created over 40 permanent installations throughout the country, including the Grand Canyon Amphitheater on the South Rim, Confluence Park in Denver and Agave in Phoenix’s Paseo Highlands Park.
The Ford Tribute will feature an elliptical bench of buff sandstone, circling the main mast of the new canopy, and will serve as the fulcrum for the new space.
A hand-carved fountain anchors the stairs, while a timeline created from stone and copper placed at Betty Ford Way marks the milestones of the Fords’ contributions to the Vail Valley. The monument highlights the positive changes that two committed individuals were able to make to the quality of life in their adopted hometown.
The Ford Amphitheater component of the overall Ford Park improvement project is partially funded by a $2.1 million portion of the former town of Vail conference center funds, the distribution of which Vail voters overwhelming approved in a special election in November of 2011. The Vail Valley Foundation has committed to raising the remainder of the funds needed to complete the improvements at the Ford Amphitheater.