SummerStage's Central Park Venue to Get Extensive Renovation for 2019 Season

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A rendering of renovations for the SummerStage venue in New York City.

The City Park Foundation’s festival is upgrading to remain competitive after nearly 20 years of providing free concerts.

By the 2019 season, City Park Foundation’s flagship SummerStage venue in New York will be extensively renovated. Following this season’s final show by Angélique Kidjo on Thursday (Sept. 27), SummerStage will be completely revamped for its free concert series that serves more than 250,000 attendees annually at Central Park and in 15-18 neighborhood parks around the city.

Located in Central Park at Rumsey Playfield, the venue will be revamped with a new stage, cover, sound system and lighting and video. The new venue will have improved sightlines for fans in general admission and for the first time will include a VIP section with seating and covering.

"We are thrilled to unveil our new venue for our 2019 season and are excited to be ushering in a new era of City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage with a venue that has been planned holistically, one that enhances both the audience's and the artists' experience,” Heather Lubov, executive director for City Parks Foundation tells Billboard.

Originally founded in 1986 at the Naumberg Bandshell to serve as a free public resource to help enrich the lives of New Yorkers, the venue was moved to Rumsey Playfield in 1990 and has served the community for over 20 years.

The flagship venue now presents more than 30 free performances each year and supports free concerts in all five boroughs by presenting up to 22 ticketed benefit concerts with their exclusive partner, Bowery Presents. The venue is also rented out to Good Morning America for their summer concert series.

“Our SummerStage season was curated to represent New York City's cultural diversity. Each year we celebrate the joy of communities gathered around the arts, with iconic performances spanning music, dance, film, and more,” executive artistic director for City Parks Foundation, Erika Elliott, tells Billboard.

Elliott adds: “From Angelique Kidjo, Mura Masa, Mariza, Dej LoafTOKiMONSTA, Eddie Palmieri and Big Daddy Kane, to Alvin Ailey Dance Workshops, and Metropolitan Opera Summer Series, there was truly something for everyone -- for free!”

The Central Park venue will see a 20 percent increase in diameter for its stage canopy and foundational support will be reinforced to accommodate the weight load of larger productions. The new stage will include a front thrust, added side wings and LED screens on either side.

Bleacher seating will be raised for better sightlines and ground seating with chairs will be added for up to 1,900 guests. The venue's full capacity can hold up to 5,500. VIP areas will have increased capacity along with designated bleacher space, backstage bar and air-conditioned bathrooms.

The updated venue will now feature improved backstage accommodations with new greenrooms, private viewing area for artists and guests, upgraded dressing rooms and a backstage patio area. The renovations will also include improved ADA access and various hydration stations throughout the footprint.

“SummerStage has been presenting well-known and emerging artists -- free of charge -- for more than 30 years. We remain committed to providing all New Yorkers with world-class live performances in the most welcoming and contemporary setting possible, and look forward to continuing to make memories at SummerStage for many years to come,” Lubov says.

To close out the 2018 season Kidjo, the Grammy Award-winning Beninese singer-songwriter, will perform her rendition of the Talking Heads classic 1980 album Remain in the Light on Thursday night.


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