New Vail amphitheater entry makes debut | VailDaily.com

New Vail amphitheater entry makes debut

Thousands sit on the lawn at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail on Tuesday. The sounds of Rusted Root were heard throughout the venue during the first concert of the Hot Summer Nights concert series.

VAIL — The new entrance to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater was designed to serve as a social gathering point while providing additional shelter from inclement weather. Thankfully, during its debut Tuesday evening, only one of those qualities was on display.

Before the doors to the venue opened, roughly 160 people gathered in the new entryway, chatting and admiring the new structure before the first Hot Summer Nights concert of the summer, featuring Rusted Root.

"This place is awesome," Blake Gould, of Austin, Texas, said from the new entryway. Gould recently relocated to Vail full time. "It's really nice — one more nice thing about living in Vail."

Local Seth Ehrlich was impressed by the new entrance, as well.

"It's really majestic and fits the scene here," he said.

While Ehrlich was taking in the new entrance, his 3-year-old son, Maclain, was enjoying one of its features, a fountain with a miniature waterfall that greets guests as they walk into the venue. Kids were drawn to it throughout the evening.

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The fountain, stone seating area and Ford family tribute in the new entryway were designed by artist Andy Dufford, of Chevo Studios, which specializes in public-space art.

Dufford, along with representatives from Zehren and Associates, the architects on the project; R.A. Nelson, the contractor; the town of Vail; and the Vail Valley Foundation, which provided funding, celebrated the new entryway in a private gathering Monday night.

"We were working right up until the last minute to get everything done," said Jen Mason, of the Vail Valley Foundation. "But I think everyone is really happy with the way it turned out."

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The tensile canopy — the portion of the new entry that is designed to provide shelter from inclement weather — was often mentioned Tuesday in comparison with Denver International Airport. That's not surprising, said Mason, since the same company was used in both projects, Birdair Inc.

The new entryway also includes additional restrooms, concession stands, water fountains and a specialized water-bottle filling fountain.

The Ford Amphitheater work is a component of the overall Ford Park project and is partially funded by a $2.1 million portion of the former town of Vail conference center funds. The Vail Valley Foundation has committed to raise the remainder of the $10 million needed to complete the project.

Mason said with the extra amenities, it will take an extra employee or two to run the free weekly concerts. That's good news for recent Vail Mountain School graduate Taylor Washing, who is happy to have secured herself summer employment at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

"This is the best summer job I could ask for," she said. "I've been coming to the Ford Amphitheater since I was 4 years old, and now I work here."

Hot Summer Nights concerts continue every Tuesday throughout the summer; next week New Orleans singer-songwriter Anders Osborne plays starting at 6:30 p.m. For more information and to see a complete schedule, visit vvf.org.