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See the American Family Insurance Amphitheater as latest renovation advances: Slideshow

Summerfest patrons in 2019 saw the completion of the first phase of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater's $53 million project. Now music festival organizers are advancing toward completion of the second phase focused on greater accessibility for all amphitheater patrons.

Check out the attached slideshow to see the progress being made on the second phase of the high-profile project.

"Phase two is all about access and trying to find ways to get patrons better access in and out of the amphitheater," Milwaukee World Festival architectural designer Jason Stuewe said, "trying to make sure everybody has access to amenities and make sure there aren't any improper distribution of amenities throughout the venue."

The amphitheater opened in 1987. At the time, it was one of only eight amphitheaters in the country. Milwaukee World Festival director of design and construction Bob Gosse said that when Milwaukee World Festival looked to renovate the amphitheater, they knew they wanted to maintain the structure of the venue.

"The amphitheater has really good bones to it," Gosse said. "We wanted to work from what we had and build upon those previous successes and make it a new state-of-the-art facility for this year and the next 35 years."

A hallmark of the first phase of the renovation was raising the amphitheater roof 26 feet to accommodate bigger acts.

The second phase includes adding about 25,000 square feet of concourse and deck space. The amphitheater will double the amount of women's bathrooms throughout the concourse. There will also be new food and beverage offerings at every concourse. Previously, food was available at just two locations, but starting in 2020 amphitheater patrons will have six food and beverage locations.

New aesthetic features to the venue include a repainting of the seating bowl from blue to dark gray. The amphitheater will have all new seating and benches.

As the architects were looking at proper distribution of amenities, the seating sections were also reconfigured. The amphitheater will have double the amount of aisles in the lower seating levels. This will allow for easier access to seats. The reconstruction reduces row lengths from about 60-70 maximum seats to 30-40 maximum seats in a row.

The amphitheater will also be expanding bleacher seating with a new bleacher section on the east side. While the capacity will most likely go up slightly, Gosse said, the amphitheater will remain at an average capacity of about 23,000 people.

Accessibility was a fundamental part of second phase of construction. The project includes the construction of a new elevator, which will have access to all concourses. The amphitheater is also adding new ADA seats with improved sight lines, wider pathways and accessibility to the lawn and bench seatings.

The second phase of construction began following the 2019 festival. The architect of the project is Eppstein Uhen Architects, and Hunzinger Construction is the construction manager. The renovations will be complete by June 2020 and will debut at the 2020 Summerfest, which begins June 24.

Margaret Naczek
Milwaukee Business Journal