Classic Amphitheatre at Strawberry Hill

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Classic Amphitheatre At Strawberry Hill
Classic Amphitheatre
Location Richmond, Virginia
Coordinates 37°35′24″N 77°25′03″W / 37.59000°N 77.41750°W / 37.59000; -77.41750Coordinates: 37°35′24″N 77°25′03″W / 37.59000°N 77.41750°W / 37.59000; -77.41750
Type Outdoor amphitheatre
Seating type reserved, lawn
Capacity 7,000
Opened 1991

The Classic Amphitheatre at Strawberry Hill is a 7,000-seat outdoor concert venue in Richmond, Virginia, that presented a summer-long concert series of major music acts from 1991–1999 and 2013–present. The venue presents concerts, hosts special events associated with the NASCAR races on the property, as well as graduation ceremonies of local high schools. It was the venue for the Virginia State Fair's annual concert series, until the Fair left Richmond after the 2008 Fair.

The amphitheatre is located on the grounds of Richmond International Raceway, which is the former home of the Virginia State Fair. At the time of its construction, the amphitheatre was the first of its type in the state of Virginia. The major summer amphitheatre concept was still relatively new at the time of construction, making the Classic Amphitheatre a sort of prototype for the later construction of Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Virginia Beach and Nissan Pavilion in Manassas—both larger venues (capacities over 20,000) in the state, with more amenities for concertgoers and artists alike.

The design and layout of the amphitheatre is similar to that of other major amphitheatres throughout America. 6,000 fixed seats on a raked concrete surface are positioned under a sloping roof, with a general admission area behind the seating that accommodates an additional 1,000 people.[1] The former lawn section was subsequently removed to make more room for improvements to the adjacent NASCAR track. A large lot is located behind the stage structure, for multiple buses and trucks, with two loading docks and the backstage area houses six private dressing rooms, with restrooms and showers.

Prior to the opening of the amphitheatre in 1991, the Richmond area had seen a major decline in major music acts at its indoor arena, Richmond Coliseum. When the amphitheatre opened, seasons were packed with A-list music acts that Richmond had not seen in several years. For the first few years of its operation, the summer concert series was titled the "Budweiser Concert Series," sponsored by Budweiser. Since many summer concert tours were mounted solely for outdoor venues, Richmond was the only Virginia stop on the tour of many artists on their summer itineraries, making it a destination venue for people from all over the state. When the larger outdoor venues in Manassas and Virginia Beach were built, starting in 1995, with substantially larger capacities, the Classic Amphitheatre noticed a steady decline in the quality of shows promoters were able to book there. Although it was still able to secure several A-list acts each season, more and more acts were again skipping Richmond for the larger venues. In its last official season, in 1999, only one act was booked that summer -- Hootie & the Blowfish. After that season, the promoter pulled out of the venue and the owners were not able to attract the interest of any other promoters. During the summer of 2013, the venue resumed presenting summer concerts.[2]

Though seen as state-of-the-art at the time of its opening, in comparison to similar contemporary amphitheatres, the Classic Amphitheatre had several downfalls. Sales and consumption of alcohol was restricted to a gated-off area, away from the seating; no alcohol could be taken into the seating areas. Though it had several corporate sponsorships, the venue did not have formal box-seating or suites for its sponsors—a major component of contemporary amphitheatres. The lawn seating area was smaller than the fixed seating area—at most contemporary amphitheatres, the festival lawn seating is often twice the size (or larger) of the fixed seating.

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