The 20 Freshest (And Refreshed) Venues To Watch In 2018

Foo Fighters
Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post/Getty Images

Grohl fronted the Foo Fighters during the opening-night show at The Anthem (inset) in Washington, D.C., last October.

If you build it -- or renovate it -- they will come. That remains the mantra of venue operators seeking their slice of the $25 billion global touring business. From theaters to arenas to stadiums, investment in development or refurbishment of facilities draws higher ticket grosses. Here are 20 of the most notable new or renovated live-music venues in North America competing for the top shows on the road.

Washington, D.C. 
Concert capacity: 6,000

Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom/ZUMA Press
Foo Fighters headlines the opening-night show at The Anthem in D.C., last October.

The Anthem “is set to become the No. 1 venue in America,” declared Foo FightersDave Grohl ahead of the band’s Oct. 12 christening of the triple-level hall custom-designed for music and built as part of the Wharf waterfront development in Washington, D.C. A movable stage and backdrop allows the venue to put on shows with a capacity range of 2,500-6,000. It has since hosted LCD Soundsystem, Bob Dylan, Lorde and The Killers, among others.

San Francisco
Concert capacity: 1,000

In San Francisco’s historic Union Square district, in a building that dates back to 1911, the renovated August Hall, due to open later this year, will feature a bowling alley and a restaurant/bar called Fifth Arrow. The venue will be booked by Live Nation, and that company’s Northern California president, Jodi Goodman, says that when she first saw the raw space, “I felt like how Bill Graham probably felt when he first went into the Fillmore back in the day.”

Concert capacity: 1,450

The late Alex Cooley, the legendary Atlanta concert promoter, and his business partner Peter Conlon repurposed this historic theater as a rock club in 1979 and brought Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Elton John, among others, to its stage. After a $7 million renovation, the hall reopened in 2010, and Live Nation took control of the venue in 2017. It boasts restored Spanish-baroque architecture and state-of-the-art sound, lighting and catering facilities.

Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Concert capacity: 3,204

When Tito Puente Jr. and other Puerto Rican musicians in South Florida wanted to stage a benefit concert in November for Hurricane Maria victims, they chose the Charles F. Dodge City Center Pembroke Pines. The multiuse facility managed by SMG opened in May 2017. It’s located some 30 miles from Miami to the southeast and Fort Lauderdale to the northeast, with seating configurations for concerts, conventions and trade shows.

Concert capacity: 17,000

The FedExForum, home of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, offers fans a visual feast in the birthplace of rock’n’roll. Last summer, the arena installed a first-of-its-kind 360-degree, oval-shaped scoreboard to complement four massive high-definition videoboards, each 38 by 20 feet, all designed to project moves on the court and the stage to each seat. Last February, Garth Brooks played four sold-out dates at the Forum.

Concert capacity: 7,500

Run by a nonprofit foundation, the Levitt Pavilion Denver opened in mid-2017 to offer some 50 free concerts a year in historic Ruby Hill Park, with the goal of building community through music. Funded by donations, grants, sponsorships and concessions, the shed is nurturing local acts, paying them 40 percent above average guarantees for their gigs. The venue also is offering ticketed shows by national artists.

Concert capacity: 20,000

Hometown superstar Kid Rock on Sept. 12 opened Detroit’s new Little Caesars Arena, part of a 50-block entertainment district in the Motor City. The building’s technological flourishes include the world’s largest SkyDeck, a tension-wire grid supported by a steel framework high above the crowd, allowing exceptional access for staging and lighting crews. Down at ground level, Kid Rock also debuted his Made in Detroit restaurant at the venue.

Concert capacity: 80,000 (in the round)

Courtesy of AMB Sports + Entertainment
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will host concerts by Kenny Chesney in May, Taylor Swift in August and Ed Sheeran in November.

MAC Presents founder Marcie Allen went to Garth Brooks’ inaugural concert at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Oct. 12 -- and brought her entire New York University music industry class along for a field trip. The building, home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MSL’s Atlanta United, features the latest venue technology, including a five-story-high videoboard, and sky-bridge gathering areas on three concourses. Among its 673 concession points are some bargain prices ($2 hot dogs!) that have driven overall per-fan spending up 16 percent, the venue reports.

Columbia, Md.
Concert capacity: 18,000 (50,000 for festivals)

The ongoing $58 million renovation of this iconic 50-year-old amphitheater, on a 40-acre site between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., hit a bump on Jan. 13, when high winds caused the pavilion’s roof to collapse. Venue operator Seth Hurwitz said that “the winds of fate prevailed and decided that, instead of raising the roof, we should just go ahead and build a new one.” Among the features of the shed’s upgrade: a new Brazilian Cherry stage inset with a turntable platform, new dressing rooms, a 40-foot stone fireplace and a pool exclusively for touring personnel and guests.

Augusta, Ga.
Concert capacity: 1,300

The Miller Theater first opened its doors in 1940 and was abandoned in 1985. But on Jan. 7, the historic hall again welcomed audiences for a grand gala featuring the Symphony Orchestra Augusta after a $25 million renovation. The SMG-managed theater, designed in the Streamline Moderne style with brushed aluminum fixtures, will host a range of performers in February, with bookings including Diana Krall, Ronnie Milsap and Gordon Lightfoot.

Moncton, New Brunswick
Concert capacity: 9,350

Set to open in September, the $110 million Moncton Downtown Centre in the Canadian province of New Brunswick will draw tours routed from Halifax, Nova Scotia; Quebec City; or Bangor, Maine, and will tap a regional market of 1.4 million fans. The arena’s capacity can be cut down for more intimate shows or expanded to hold as many as 9,350. The complex includes an exterior plaza with an outdoor stage -- and a skating rink.

Uniondale, N.Y.
Concert capacity: 15,000

Mike Lawrence
JAY-Z brought his 4:44 Tour to NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, last December.

Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney and Metallica are among those who have played NYCB Live since the Nassau Coliseum reopened in April 2017 after a two-year, $165 million renovation by Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (which also operates Brooklyn’s Barclays Center). The work included a striking new exterior, enhanced services and concessions for fans and exclusive backstage artist quarters featuring a residential-style suite, wellness room, fitness center, living room and a promoter’s lounge.

Las Vegas
Concert capacity: 5,300

MGM Resorts International in 2016 dedicated $450 million to “re-imagine and rebrand” its Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas into two distinct hotel properties, each adjacent to the entertainment district containing T-Mobile Arena and Park Theater. The theater features a cutting-edge projection video wall, and no seat is more than 147 feet from the stage. The venue hosts Grammy Awards victor Bruno Mars for four shows in February, and announced a residency by Lady Gaga beginning in December.

Tacoma, Wash.
Concert capacity: 23,000

The largest indoor arena in the state of Washington, the Tacoma Dome is known for its expansive wooden roof, and was christened in 1983 by David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight Tour. Some $21.3 million in renovations to the city-owned venue, due to begin this summer, will include beautification of the building’s exterior, additional restrooms, modernization of backstage areas and updates to loading docks and security.

Concert capacity: 20,500 (center stage)

While the Target Center originally opened in 1990, $145 million in renovation work completed this past October transformed the home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. Managed by AEG Facilities, the arena in Minneapolis’ downtown entertainment district now features a new two-story atrium facing downtown and a new 500-capacity VIP Lexus Club.

Albany, N.Y.
Concert capacity: 17,000

With 1.3 million residents within a one-hour drive, the Times Union Center draws tours routed throughout the Northeast. Its lower building costs yield net revenue that is normally higher than almost any other major market in the region, according to the center. A $30 million renovation of the SMG-managed venue added a new atrium with interior landscaping and a glass elevator, and new 70-foot-high exterior LED videoboards, with full audio, that can feature the music videos of artists booked for upcoming shows.

Madison, Wis.
Concert capacity: 10,230

At the multipurpose Alliant Energy Center, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum closed out 2017 with shows by Amy Grant, Sixx:AM and Shinedown, the kind of diverse bookings that keep a building filled. The coliseum in recent years has added new seating and new loading docks and carried out restroom renovations and interior painting. Local officials in September voted to move ahead with a detailed plan to overhaul the entire 164-acre, county-owned Alliant Energy Center complex.

Salt Lake City
Concert capacity: 16,300

The Vivint Smart Home Arena, home to the NBA’s Utah Jazz, went dark during summer 2017. But the venue was far from quiet, as construction crews tore out walls and seats in a $125 million, 129-day renovation of the building. An illuminated musical J-note statue, in team colors of blue, green and gold, now greets fans on the outdoor plaza. Inside, there are new fully cushioned seats and upgraded dining options. The Jazz will bid to host the NBA’s all-star weekend in 2022 or 2023.

Concert capacity: 7,200

Talk about superstar bookings: Less than a month after the opening of the Wintrust Arena, near Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, the venue hosted former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for the Obama Foundation Summit and closing concert. The Nov. 1 performance featured Chance the Rapper, Gloria Estefan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nas, The National and others.

Concert capacity: 17,500

Due to open this fall, the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center will be the new home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and the centerpiece of a 30-acre entertainment, residential and commercial district. Fronting a plaza for year-round community use, the venue will feature concourses overlooking both the arena bowl and the city. Among the acts already booked: Elton John, Foo Fighters and comedian Kevin Hart.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of Billboard.