Answers to All Your Burning Questions about the Amphitheater at White River State Park

Axis Architecture Blog Post, Uncategorized

When the Amphitheater at White River State Park opens this summer, there will be a new permanent stage and fixed seating. But that doesn’t mean the lawn is going away, or that the general admission pit is disappearing. Here’s everything you need to know about the makeover at White River State Park.

White River State Park Amphitheater
This three-phased project includes a permanent amphitheater, permanent restroom facilities, a VIP club, dressing rooms, and a merchandise and concessions area. The amphitheater will provide covered seating for 3,500 patrons, with the lawn area providing space for an additional 4,000 patrons.


Will there still be a lawn?

Yes! The new amphitheater at White River State Park will still have a significant amount of lawn space. Based on square footage, there will be room for approximately 4,000 concertgoers.


Will there still be a general admission pit?  

Yes. There will be a non-permanent staging area up front. That means there will be open pit space at some performances, temporary seating at others. There is no permanent seating directly adjacent to the stage.


What will the permanent seats be like?

There will be approximately 3,500 permanent seats in the new amphitheater space. The new folding stadium seats are designed to enhance the comfort of concertgoers and provide easier access for most people. You won’t have to hold your drink the entire time, either; the new seats come with cupholders.


Is it true there are going to be video screens?

Yes! There will be two new LED video screens, one on each side of the stage. They’ll be roughly 12’ x 18’.

view from the lawn at White River State Park Amphitheater
Two new LED video screens will flank the stage. Each screen will be roughly 12’ x 18’.


The stage isn’t blocking the view of the river, is it?

The new stage is technically a little bigger than the previous temporary one. However, the new stage will not block the view of White River significantly more than the temporary stage did.


What about accessibility?

We actively worked to create a space that was completely accessible to everyone. So, the lawn will be accessible, all the seating will be accessible, and the general admission pit will be accessible. It’s our job to ensure that all concertgoers are comfortable, and that nothing (including sightlines) hinders them from having a different experience than someone else.


Is this a multi-phase project?

Yes; the project has three distinct phases. Phase One, completed in 2019, included the design and construction of permanent restroom facilities. Phase Two, which is currently under construction, will add the stage house, artist amenity space, permanent seating, and additional permanent restroom facilities. We expect the second phase to be complete by June 2020. Phase Three involves the design and construction of a canopy, which will create covered seating. This provides White River State Park with a performance venue that is much more robust than the temporary one.


How will construction affect concert season?

Phase Two is on track for a June 2020 completion. Although the 2020 concert season will be shorter than previous seasons, Live Nation has already secured a number of headliners, including the Barenaked Ladies, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Goo Goo Dolls.


Tons of top-notch artists have already performed at White River State Park. How will the new amphitheater attract more acts?

The new amphitheater will have more artist amenity space, which is always a draw for larger acts. Artists and their crews will be able to use several dressing rooms, shower facilities, and green rooms. Additional wing space also gives larger acts the ability to provide standout lighting and sound.


How much did the City of Indianapolis invest in this property?

City funds are not being used for the new amphitheater at White River State Park, as it is not city property. The White River State Park Commission (a quasi-state organization) and Live Nation are investing in the improvements.


What inspired the design?

Before construction for Phase One started, the design team underwent a master planning process. We explored several arrangements – Where can the stage go? Where should the restrooms be? How can the site best be laid out? With client input, we ultimately decided to construct the permanent stage in the same location as the temporary one. We took budget and phasing (aka timing) into consideration. Constructability also played a part in the decision. There was a desire to reduce the costs associated with construction, as well as the construction schedule. We did this by using the existing grade and lawn to the best of our ability, instead of modifying the entire site.


Once we determined the site layout, we focused on the design. For us, it was important to create a “campus feel.” Meaning, we had to design something that respected and responded to the existing architecture. With budget and constructability in mind, the stage house became clean, simple, and subtle. The materials are robust, though, and even provide a sense of movement. The way the artist amenities and restroom building are arranged also draw your eyes through the architecture. That way, the stage and the performers are the focal point. (This also makes it easier for future infrastructure – the canopy – to be incorporated.)


How will the White River State Park amphitheater be different from Ruoff?

White River State Park is said to be the only cultural urban state park in the country. Because of its downtown location, the amphitheater at White River State Park provides visitors with a different feel, a different experience, than other venues. Instead of weaving through a parking lot, concertgoers can stroll through a park, or along the canal. It’s a serene, yet urban, way to enter the venue. The architecture isn’t supposed to distract from the natural elements, either. It’s meant to be clean, smooth. The project isn’t trying to create another Ruoff; it’s trying to elevate an already unique venue to a place that is even more intimate and memorable.

White River State Park Amphitheater
The Amphitheater at White River State Park will serve as the western gateway to downtown Indianapolis, and create engagement, connection, and intimacy.


Why is this project happening now?     

There are a couple reasons. Concert organizers wanted to attract more acts, yes. But it’s also true that other cities were already doing similar things. In order to compete with them, or get an act already planning a tour to add Indianapolis as a stop, a change had to be made.


Who is all part of the design team?

Our team comprises four Indianapolis-based firms: Axis, Circle Design Group, Fink Roberts & Petrie (FRP), and Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA). Also on the team are Kirkegaard Associates (acoustic consultants) and Theatre Projects (theater design consultants). Both Axis and REA are familiar with White River State Park – REA designed White River Gardens, while Axis designed the White River State Park Visitors Center – and have collaborated on dozens of projects, including the Julia M. Carson Transit Center and Switchyard Park.


Has Axis worked on other projects at White River State Park?

Yes. We designed the White River State Park Visitors Center in 2004. The 5,000-square-foot facility functions as the park’s foyer. (And served as the base for the design of the amphitheater.)