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Local venue goes green

14 June 2014 By Carley Milligan, Arts & Life Editor No Comments

Courtesy of Leslie Furlong

When rising junior Jessica Lampron and her friend Sydney Zester arrived at the Jack Johnson concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion with reusable water bottles in hand, they didn’t know yet that this was just one step in a much greater plan.

On June 5 it was confirmed during a news conference at Merriweather Post Pavilion, that the venue would be undergoing a $19 million dollar renovation.

The focus of the construction is not only to upgrade the pavilion’s facilities, but also to make it a more environmentally friendly concert venue.

“I think it’s great that Merriweather is going green in such a big way,” Lampron said. “I think that Merriweather is a great concert venue. I’ve had a lot of great experiences there, so I hope that the concert experience won’t be affected too much by the green measures the venue takes.”

The construction is expected to take five years but will be performed in stages during the “offseason,” in order to keep the site open during the concert season.

The project is to be funded by both the county and the owner of the pavilion, The Howard Hughes Corporation. The Howard County Council approved $9.5 million to be matched by the Corporation.

“I have stood on those grounds with the most jaded industry veterans on tour, who gaze around and say this really is a wonderful place,” Seth Hurwitz, I.M.P. Productions chairman and operator of Merriweather said in a news release. “It will be a challenge to make it even better, but it’s going to be a lot of fun working on it.”

Among those involved is musician and environmentalist Jack Johnson who performed at Merriweather on the day of the news conference. Johnson supports 140 non-profit organizations through his “All At Once” community, which works to conserve energy and reduce waste globally, as well as more specifically, at concert venues.

“I hadn’t really heard about Jack Johnson’s ‘All at Once’ community until I got to the concert, but I definitely like and respect him more for using his fame and visibility to have a positive effect on the world,” Lampron said. Johnson was a driving force behind the instigation of the project, as much of the renovations will be to improve the venue’s environmental sustainability.

“Leading up to every concert, we work closely with each venue to encourage improvements that will save energy and reduce waste, and our hope is that they will continue these practices for all of their shows,” Johnson said in the release.

Courtesy of Leslie Furlong

Courtesy of Leslie Furlong

Merriweather is already ahead of most venues in their environmentally friendly efforts, as they are the only amphitheater with a bio-diesel fueling station for tour buses and trucks. Composting facilities and LEED standard concession stands and restrooms have also recently been added, due to Johnson’s encouragements.

The artist also suggests that his audience members bring their own empty water bottles to the concert in order to reduce waste. Yet, Lampron found that this direction was not as easily executed as one might think.

“When Sydney and I first came into the venue, we saw that people who had brought disposable water bottles and were asked to throw them away before entering, which didn’t strike me as environmentally friendly at all,” Lampron said.

She also mentioned that the venue did not provide very many recycling bins for those in attendance. However, Merriweather did carry out their green incentives in other ways like providing boxed water. Lampron said that the label on these boxes read that they were more environmentally friendly than plastic water bottles.

The plans for the renovation will bring even more updates to the venue, with the addition of 12 times the number of solar panels currently in place, to power the house and backstage lighting. Environmental improvements, like capturing storm water run-off for property irrigation, will be added throughout the venue. Similarly new seating, main roof, restrooms, concessions, artist dressing rooms and stage will be built to LEED standards.

“I think that Merriweather and Jack Johnson are setting a great example that other concert venues and artists should follow,” Lampron said. “I hope to see more venues in the future encouraging people to bring their own reusable water bottles and such.”

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