Eco-Conscious, Safety-Centric, Tech-Savvy: 35 New & Renovated Venues to Watch in 2021

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From the largest LED screen on earth to the first net zero carbon-certified arena, this year’s class of future-forward, top-of-the-line music venues is reenvisioning what it means to connect with artists IRL, and how shows can have maximum impact — and sustainably reach fans — in pandemic-striken touring economy.

After a decade of growth, with a 55% increase in ticket prices and sales through-out the 2010s, according to Billboard Boxscore (which tracks a portion of overall global activity), the start of a new decade saw revenue collapse amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from livestreams and drive-in concerts, the near-total blackout of the live market carried over into 2021, as fears of new variants delta and lambda caused a fresh wave of cancellations and rescheduled dates for acts including Garth Brooks, BTS and Billie Eilish.

Following are 35 new buildings and revitalized facilities that reflect the latest trends in concert production, with nods to health, safety and the environment at the forefront — from hands-free lavatories and custodial electrostatic sprayers to BPA-free aluminum and local farm-fresh food in concessions to recycling rainwater to freeze hockey ice.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater (Milwaukee)
Concert capacity: 23,000

The American Family Insurance Amphitheater reopened in July, one year later than expected, with dates for Foo Fighters, Zac Brown Band and Miley Cyrus. Built as part of a two-year, $51.3 million renovation of Maier Festival Park, the venue’s features include new bleachers and grass areas, the addition of seven on-site bars (which now total 15) and concession areas, as well as a new elevator. The amphitheater has also found room for 800 more seats, including 270 for fans with disabilities.

The Andrew J. Brady Icon Music Center (Cincinnati)
Concert capacity: 8,000

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s promotion company, Music & Event Management, developed the $40 million venue to help revitalize the city’s historic Riverfront district. Dubbed the “ICON,” the facility is comprises two venues — a 4,500-capacity indoor room with two balcony levels and an adjacent 8,000-capacity outdoor amphitheater for summer concerts and festivals. Recent bookings include Earth, Wind & Fire, Machine Gun Kelly and Nelly. New features include a JBL Line Array sound system and a state-of-the-art air filtration that uses bipolar ionization technology that is said to be 99% effective at killing viruses, including COVID-19, within 30 minutes of operation.

Bankplus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove (Southaven, Miss.)
Concert capacity: 11,000

Live Nation is out and the DeSoto County Convention & Visitors Bureau is in at this Mississippi venue, which was built to boost tourism in the region just 20 miles south of Memphis. The outdoor facility added new permanent seats, concessions, bathrooms and a lawn area. Todd Mastry, executive director of the Landers Center in New Haven, Conn., will oversee the amphitheater, which was forced to cancel its first bookings for Sam Hunt, Dave Matthews Band, Foreigner and Rascal Flatts this fall.

Brooklyn Bowl Nashville (Nashville)
Concert capacity: 1,200

After hosting livestreamed concerts for Maren Morris, Margo Price and others during the pandemic, Brooklyn Bowl Nashville opened its doors to ticket holders in June — 16 months later than expected — with shows by Old Crow Medicine Show and The String Cheese Incident and scheduled dates for X Ambassadors, Madison Beer, and others this fall. The Southern outpost of owner Peter Shapiro’s franchise, which also has operations in New York and Las Vegas, is located next to First Horizon Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers’ triple-A baseball team The Nashville Sounds, also offers 19 bowling lanes and a menu by Blue Ribbon.

The Buddy Holly Hall Of Performing Arts & Sciences (Lubbock, Texas)
Concert capacity: 2,200

Named after one of the city’s top alumni (Holly graduated from Lubbock High School in 1955), the 220,000-square-foot performing arts center includes the 2,200-seat Helen DeVitt Jones Main Theater and the intimate, 425-seat Crickets Studio Theater, which will host acoustic shows. Designed by global firm Diamond Schmitt Architects with a $154 million budget, the venue’s first artist bookings — including Styx, Boz Scaggs and Kristin Chenoweth — enjoyed access to new dressing rooms and lounges, back-of-house loading docks and a 6,000-square-foot multipurpose event room.

Capital One Hall (Tysons, Va.)
Concert capacity: 1,600

Capitol One Hall is slated to open in October with plans to hold 200 events per year featuring touring Broadway productions, comedy and concerts. The venue’s first music bookings include Josh Groban, Little Big Town and Kansas. Managed by ASM Global, the performing arts complex spans a main 1,600-seat theater, a 225-seat black box theater called The Vault, an amphitheater and additional event spaces. Other on-site accommodations include bocce courts, a sculpture garden, a Wegmans grocery store, a nail salon/spa and a 5,000-square-foot beer garden operated by local brewery Starr Hill.

Chase Center (San Francisco)
Concert capacity: 18,064

In preparation for a fall opening with dates for Tame Impala, Phish and the Eagles, the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center announced a multitiered partnership with Clorox to serve as its official disinfectant and create a “clean team” to audit the building’s cleanliness daily, including on nonevent days. The venue also installed a state-of-the-art HVAC system that circulates 100% outside air, custodial electro-static sprayers at the arena’s disinfection stations and mechanical air filters that are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Climate Pledge Arena (Seattle)
Concert capacity: 17,200

After four years of extensive renovations, the City of Seattle and Oak View Group plan to reopen the KeyArena as the Climate Pledge Arena in October with bookings for Eric Church, Andrea Bocelli, The Weeknd and Billie Eilish. It will be the first net zero carbon-certified arena in the world, in keeping with naming partner Amazon’s 2019 “climate pledge” commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, 10 years earlier than the deadline set by the 2015 Paris agreement. Standout elements include cutting all single-use plastic from the facility by 2024 and recycling rainwater to create the venue’s ice for its NHL team, the Seattle Kraken.

Coachella Valley Arena (Palm Desert, Calif.)
Concert capacity: 11,679

After two years of anticipation, Oak View Group broke ground in June on a $250 million, 300,000-square-foot arena near Palm Desert, Calif. The building will host concerts for the greater High Desert region and also serve as the home of the American Hockey League’s 32nd franchise team — the affiliate team for the NHL’s Seattle Kraken — that will take the ice in 2022. Set to open with the Eagles, the venue will feature an 8,000-seat lower bowl, 20 suites, a private club that can hold 145, a pair of VIP clubs and a premium concourse club that seats 590. Live Nation will serve as a strategic partner for events.

Coca-Cola Music Hall (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Concert capacity: 5,000

The hall celebrated its grand opening in August after a yearlong delay, with a sold-out performance by local Latin pop star Ednita Nazario. Fall bookings include Pedro Capó, DJ Snake and Nio Garcie. Located in the newly developed entertainment district, Distrito T-Mobile, the ASM Global-managed facility will fill a need for midsize venues on the island and also host family shows, boxing matches and other corporate events. Amenities include a back-of-house artist compound, production offices and a club level with seven luxury suites.

David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center (New York)
Concert capacity: 2,200

Scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2022 (almost two years earlier than scheduled), Lincoln Center’s $500 million renovation of its concert hall was funded in part by a $100 million gift from entertainment mogul David Geffen. The renovation will double the size of its lobby and grand promenade and feature a new welcome center and a media streaming wall. Other elements include a state-of-the-art HVAC air purify-ing system and antimicrobial technology integrated into surfaces.

The Eastern (Atlanta)
Concert capacity: 2,200

Operated by Zero Mile Presents and AEG, The Eastern opened in September with a performance from hometown legend Big Boi. With dates for Big Thief, Thundercat and Ashley McBryde, the venue will anchor the Atlanta Dairies project in Reynoldstown, which is adjacent to the Atlanta Beltline — a sustainable redevelopment project connecting 45 in-town neighbor-hoods through a 22-mile loop of multiuse trails, modern streetcars and parks. The facility boasts a multitiered floor plan that spans a rooftop bar and covered performance space, with the option of hosting more intimate 100- to 200-capacity shows.

Enmarket Arena (Savannah, Ga.)
Concert capacity: 9,600

The arena, co-managed by Live Nation, Oak View Group and the City of Savannah, is scheduled to open in February 2022, with the goal of making Savannah a top touring destination in the southeastern U.S. market. Located one mile from the neighboring Civic Center, the $165 million project will transform 600 acres of undeveloped land in the city’s Canal District. The venue also recently inked a deal to host an expansion team in the minor league East Coast Hockey League. The team has yet to be named and will join the league for the 2022-23 season.

Firstbank Amphitheater (Franklin, Tenn.)
Concert capacity: 7,500

The Live Nation-backed venue opened in August with performances by Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett and Chase Rice and has booked upcoming dates for TLC, Santana and H.E.R. The amphitheater sits on a former limestone quarry that was once a landfill. During construction, team members cleaned nearby ponds and trails to create a park-like setting for the venue’s campus, while other green initiatives include repurposing cement from a local highway to build roads leading to the venue and serving water in BPA-free aluminum bottles.

Footprint Center (Phoenix)
Concert capacity: 18,422

After completing its $230 million renovation, the Phoenix Suns’ home arena (formerly known as Talking Stick Resort Arena) inked a new naming rights deal in July with engineering/material science company Footprint. The Arizona-based environmental-tech firm works to eliminate the use of single-use plastics and will test new technologies at the sports and entertainment complex, like an on-site “living innovation lab” to educate suppliers on plant-based products. The eco-conscious arena also repurposed 8,200 tons of material from a landfill during construction. The venue’s first slate of music bookings includes dates for Guns N’ Roses, Maluma and Tyler, The Creator.

Forest Hills Stadium (Forest Hills, N.Y.)
Concert capacity: 13,000

Originally designed in the 1920s for the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the historic Queens venue went on to host iconic con-certs in the 1960s with Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. The AEG-managed stadium completed an extensive renovation during the pandemic and reopened in July with a concert lineup featuring Brandi Carlile, Bright Eyes, Wilco, My Morning Jacket/Brittany Howard, Nas and The Neighbourhood, among others. The revitalization began in 2018 and included the addition of private ground-level suites with speakeasy-style secret entrances, among other cosmetic upgrades.

Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater (Bridgeport, Conn.)
Concert capacity: 5,700

After an extensive renovation that broke ground in 2018, the Live Nation-backed amphitheater reopened in July to serve the Connecticut region with dates for Greta Van Fleet, The Beach Boys and Erykah Badu. Located on the Long Island Sound, the facility’s new elements include a tensile roof, custom steel gates, stone walls and marble bathrooms. Previously home to the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team, the revamped venue also features a star suite for visiting artists with such A-list amenities as an outdoor patio, massage room and personal chef.

History (Toronto, Ontario)
Concert capacity: 2,500

After three years of development and construction, Drake and Live Nation announced their new, intimate concert venue in the artist’s hometown of Toronto in June. Located in the city’s East Side enclave The Beaches, History was inspired by the rapper’s pre-superstar years playing smaller stages. Set to open in October, the venue plans to host 200 concerts and events annually, including galas and community programs. Initial music bookings include All Time Low/Rival Sons, Bleachers, Thundercat and The Flaming Lips.

Irving Plaza (New York)
Concert capacity: 1,200

In August, Irving Plaza completed a multimillion-dollar renovation that began in 2019. The overhaul doubled the size of the landmark’s lobby and bar area to create a new space for individually curated events and artist meet-and-greets. Owner Live Nation also upgraded the venue’s sound and lighting equipment and its customer connectivity with new Cisco Wi-Fi 6 access points. Other new elements include a VIP lounge that has a private bar and balcony-level boxes with unobstructed views of the stage for first bookings with Guided by Voices, Ben Folds, Noah Cyrus, Cheap Trick and Kevin Gates.

Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theater (Jersey City, N.J.)
Concert capacity: 3,300

Nearly a century after the historic movie palace opened in 1929, the Loew’s Jersey Theater announced a $72 million restoration in March that will include updating the venue’s HVAC and plumbing, as well as sound and visual upgrades to modernize its overall tech. With construction scheduled to begin in 2022, the venue has a projected 2025 opening. Devils Arena Entertainment, which also operates the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will manage the venue, while former owner Friends of the Loew’s will continue to run its nonprofit division providing arts programming for the greater Hudson County, N.J., region.

Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (Birmingham, Ala.)
Concert capacity: 18,000

Downtown Birmingham’s BJCC is expected to complete its $123 million renovation of the Legacy Arena later this year. Improvements included the addition of 66,000 square feet of new space and enhancements to the fan experience from improved air circulation and doubling the number of women’s restrooms to a renovated loading dock that can accommodate major tours like scheduled 2022 bookings with Billie Eilish and Eric Church.

Mission Ballroom (Denver)
Concert capacity: 3,950

Operated by AEG Presents Rocky Mountain, Mission Ballroom has become a must-play venue in the competitive Denver market. The facility opened in 2019 to rival Live Nation’s nearby Fillmore Auditorium and features a first-of-its-kind indoor terrace with a moveable stage that can nearly double the venue’s capacity from 2,200 to 3,950. The 60,000-square-foot building anchors a new 14-acre mixed-use development, North Wynkoop, and has upcoming shows for Erykah Badu, Karol G and Ween.

Moody Center at The University of Texas at Austin (Austin)
Concert capacity: 15,000

Built entirely with private money, the new $338 million Moody Center will open in the spring of 2022 to replace the university’s 44-year-old Erwin Center. Scheduled concerts include The Weeknd, John Mayer, Justin Bieber and The Killers. Oak View Group developed and will operate the facility, which plans to host over 150 events a year, from concerts to the college’s basketball games, family shows and other sporting and local events. Live Nation and Charles Attal, co-founder of C3 Presents, will handle booking, while Austin-born actor Matthew McConaughey will serve as building ambassador.

MSG Sphere (Las Vegas)
Concert capacity: 17,500

Madison Square Garden’s ambitious Las Vegas Sphere continues to be one of the most anticipated music venues in the world, with a price tag of $1.8 billion. Set to open in 2023 following pandemic-related construction delays, the structure will be anchored by what is touted as the largest and highest-resolution LED screen on earth, which will cover an area larger than three football fields. The screen is intended to create an immersive, virtual reality-style experience for ticket holders. In June, MSG completed the construction of the Sphere’s steel frame, while the exosphere is still under construction.

Nashville Yards (Nashville)
Concert capacity: 4,000

Developed by Southwest Value Partners, the 18-acre Nashville Yards complex will include a 1.3-acre park, two office towers for Amazon Nashville and hotels including a luxury Grand Hyatt and the converted landmark train terminal, Union Station. In June, SVP announced a long-term joint venture with AEG to co-develop the entertainment district’s planned 4,000-capacity concert venue, as well as a movie theater, restaurants, shopping, office spaces and residences, with construction to begin in early 2022.

PPG Paints Arena (Pittsburgh)
Concert capacity: 19,578

The NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins partnered with concessionaire Aramark for the renovation of its PPG Arena, which will be completed for the start of the 2021 hockey season in October and first concerts with Alabama, MercyMe and Genesis. Designed to create a safe and efficient environment for fans, the overhaul included adding new features with social distancing in mind, from touch-screen self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering through the Penguins app to self-checkout scanners powered by Mashgin artificial intelligence.

PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation (Newport, Ky.)
Concert capacity: 7,000

The first phase of a $1 billion, 25-acre revitalization of downtown Newport, the pavilion opened in August with concerts by Taking Back Sunday, Bleachers, Polo G and Angels & Airwaves. The facility’s new elements include an interior mezzanine and two raised stages that can accommodate 2,700 fans for indoor shows and 7,000 outdoor. The venue also boasts a 550-car parking garage and a new bus dock for touring performers.

Roadrunner (Boston)
Concert capacity: 3,500

After three years of construction, The Bowery Presents will open its new 3,500-capacity venue, Roadrunner, next spring. Named after a song by local legends The Modern Lovers, the 50,000-square-foot building will serve as the region’s largest general-admission venue for indoor live-music performances, according to the promoter. The facility will anchor the 15-acre Track at New Balance development at Boston Landing in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood — a former industrial area that once served as a stockyard.

Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Concert capacity: 23,500

Led by architectural firms NBBJ and EOP, the $275 million renovation project at Central Bank Center (formerly Lexington Center) will wrap in the spring of 2022, with its first concerts by Jason Aldean, Lauren Daigle, Jojo Siwa and Backstreet Boys. The Oak View Group-managed arena added new chair-back seats to replace bleachers, an expanded seating section and concourses, and a 50,000-square-foot hospitality club for the University of Kentucky. The project targeted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

S.O.B.’s (New York)
Concert capacity: 450

In its fourth decade, S.O.B.’s (aka Sounds of Brazil) is the premier destination for Latin, hip-hop, Caribbean and other world-music artists performing in the greater New York region. Located in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, the facility has played host to landmark sets from Tito Puente, Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, Drake, Kanye West and Jill Scott. For the venue’s first revitalization since it opened in 1982, owner-director Larry Gold made upgrades to the sound system to improve the overall visitor experience and expanded the room to 4,000 square feet.

Sofi Stadium (Los Angeles)
Concert capacity: 100,000

The Inglewood, Calif., venue opened in September 2020 as the home of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. In May, it hosted the Global Citizen-organized concert special Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World, which promoted COVID-19 vaccinations and featured acts including Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters and H.E.R. The stadium’s upcoming slate of concerts includes dates for Los Bukis, The Rolling Stones and Kenny Chesney.

The Theatre at Resorts World (Las Vegas)
Concert capacity: 7,000

One of the most anticipated entertainment properties on the Strip, Resorts World’s new theater is slated to open in November with new residencies for Céline Dion, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. Programmed and operated by AEG Presents, the tech-forward facility will feature 5,000 square feet of LED screens and a cut-ting edge, fully immersive 265-speaker surround-sound audio system created by design firm Sceno and audio engineering company L’Acoustics.

The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (Las Vegas)
Concert capacity: 4,500

Occupying the space once held by The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, the new AEG-managed theater opened in September with remodeled luxury suites, bars and VIP areas and updated sound and video technology. Its first music shows included performances by Gary Clark Jr., Lady A, Russ, Dropkick Murphys/Rancid and Karol G. A six-show residency with Journey is scheduled for December.

UBS Arena (Elmont, N.Y.)
Concert capacity: 18,500

Following pandemic-related halts to production, Oak View Group’s new $1.5 billion Long Island arena is scheduled to open in October as the new home of the NHL’s New York Islanders. The multipurpose arena is also made for music and will offer a back-of-house load-in/load-out “campus,” designed with input from Live Nation, that will cut costs for large touring productions. Other features include a new hydraulics system that will ensure that no extra space is needed for nonsporting events like concerts and Munter dehumidifying machines that will generate 80% more airflow for scheduled concerts by Eric Church and Genesis.

YouTube Theater (Inglewood, Calif.)
Concert capacity: 7,000

Part of the new mixed-use development from Los Angeles Rams owner/chairman E. Stanley Kroenke, Hollywood Park, the 227,000-square-foot, three-story indoor venue will be embedded under a sloped-roof canopy that also covers nearby SoFi Stadium and American Airlines Plaza. YouTube Theater’s other standout features include six luxury boxes, a private club with 140 premium seats and a flexible capacity range of 3,400, 4,400 and 6,000 for larger events. The venue’s first music bookings include Trippie Redd, Marina and the Diamonds and Louis Tomlinson.

The Global Set

This year’s five international venues to watch include facilities in Dubai, the U.K. and Italy.

Anghami Lab (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Concert capacity: 300

Launched by Middle East and North Africa-focused music streaming company Anghami in partnership with hospitality outfit Addmind, the Lab is the first in a series of planned international venues that aim to offer both traditional and digital entertainment for patrons. Set to open in 2022, the venue will feature a lounge, stage and studio where creators can experiment by co-creating and performing music inspired by both Arabic and international cultures. The resulting music will then be made available exclusively on Anghami.

Co-Op Live (Manchester, England)
Concert capacity: 23,500

Built and managed by Oak View Group, Co-Op Live will be the largest indoor arena in the United Kingdom when it opens in 2023. Situated in East Manchester, adjacent to the Manchester Football Club’s home turf, Etihad Stadium, the new facility will be sustainably powered and climate-conditioned through its “smart bowl” design, rainwater usage system and other eco-friendly measures. Harry Styles is both an investor and spokesman for the facility and appeared in a recent promotional video for the venue.

Forum Birmingham (Birmingham, England)
Concert capacity: 3,500

Previously hosting acts including Nirvana, The Clash and Amy Winehouse, the historic space has been reimagined as an electronic music haunt after extensive renovations by the building’s new owner, Global Venues. The facility reopened in September with a restored wooden sprung dancefloor and new sound system. Glastonbury Festival-affiliated DMX Productions oversees the staging of shows, which so far have included Mike Skinner (of The Streets fame) and Netsky, Honey Dijon and slowthai.

RCF Arena (Reggio Emilia, Italy)
Concert capacity: 100,000

Located in the Emilia-Romagna region that connects Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, RCF Arena is one of the largest-capacity music venues in Italy. The venue boasts connectivity and VIP areas, and seating was built on a five-degree slope that provides optimal visuals from all sections of the arena. Seat-ing capacity ranges from 5,000 to 100,000 for special events, such as its sold-out grand opening with local superstar Luciano Ligabuech, which was rescheduled to June 2022 due to the pandemic.

Stockton Globe (Stockton-On-Tees, England)
Concert capacity: 3,000

Known as a premier music destination for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles in the 1950s and ’60s, the art deco theater then spent two decades as a bingo hall before shuttering in 1997. The facility has since been revitalized, with a decade-long renovation that began in 2011 piloted by the venue’s new manager, Ambassador Theatre Group, which restored original design touches, including its Terrazzo floors in the atrium and the Hessian stage curtain, as well as wheelchair-accessible and VIP areas. After structural issues caused the price of the renovation to skyrocket from $5.5 million to $37 million, the space reopened in May with performances by McFly and Nick Cave.

This story originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2021, issue of Billboard.

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