HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The long awaited Orion Amphitheater is hosting it’s first ever concert event on Saturday, May 7th. Jake Owen will take the stage around 8 p.m.
On Friday, News 19 got tour of the full venue, as construction continued in the background.
“We’re trying to perfect it, there is still dust and construction work going on, but it’s getting cleaned up in time,” said Huntsville Venue Group CEO, Ben Lovett.
Lovett is also a member of Grammy Award winning band, Mumford & Sons. In an exclusive on stage interview with News 19, Lovett said, he’s been in the venue creation business for about six years.
“This is like a different creative expression for me, and I see these buildings like kind of a multi-generational offering to live beyond my time,” Lovett said.
Lovett was accompanied on the tour of the venue with Huntsville Venue Group President and General Manager, Ryan Murphy.
In an interview with News 19, Murphy said, “so here we are in the final 24 hours about to open this place, you know, and it’s going to be an ever growing, ever evolving thing, which is exciting.”
Murphy told News 19 that the amphitheater can hold “7,800 to 8,000 when fully packed out.”
He said they spent a lot of time and effort when designing the seating area, to ensure every seat has a great view of the stage.
“We did massive sightline studies, so to make sure there’s not a bad seat in the house,” Murphy said. “So no matter where you’re sitting you’re getting a great vantage point. You will not be blocked, you won’t only be able to see the lead singer. We’re going to make sure you can see at least twenty feet into the stage, from wherever you’re sitting.”
He also said they wanted to make the venue a special place for the musical artists, and ensure they could interact with fans.
While speaking exclusively with News 19 on the stage Murphy said, “we’re lucky enough to be on stage right now and see from the artists perspective of what they’re going to see.”
“I mean you see the guys that are farthest away, working right now, you can see the smile on their face,” Murphy said. “Dave Matthews Band, Jason Isabell, Jake Owen, whoever it is up here is going to see that same vantage point and that’s a really unique thing.”
The attention to detail was brought into every aspect of the venue.
The back stage areas and artist rooms are filled with artwork, and curated with furniture to make artists feel welcome.
“I’ve had the pleasure in playing in over a thousand venues in my career and there are probably only five places that got it right when it comes to backstage,” Lovett said. “You gotta think about when you’ve been on the road for a year or two this becomes your life. You’re either on the tour bus, or you’re in these rooms.”
“Sometimes these rooms [backstage], are an afterthought,” Lovett said. “So what we want here is that artists have such a positive review of playing here, they actually tell the rest of the [musical] community about it.”
The rooms even take into account the heart of Huntsville, and the impact from NASA. Lovett said they leaned into design inspiration from the 60s, and even bought real pieces of furniture that used to be in NASA offices.
In addition to the vintage furniture, they’ll have several vintage guitars on hand, so musical artists can borrow them if song-writing inspiration hits.
The venue also tried to set itself apart from other concert venues, by branching out the concession stand areas. Each stand has it’s own theme, and many focus on one type of alcohol. There is a whiskey bar, a gin bar, and there’s even a seltzer bar.
Near one of the stands closest to the seats, the Weeden Bar, beer prices listed range from $9 for a local brew, to $14 for the most expensive IPA.
Ben Lovett said he hopes The Orion is a destination for people from all over North Alabama, and even the southeast region. He said Huntsville is a special place. “A lot of my travels have led me to believe some of the best parts of America are really in some of the smaller cities,” Lovett said. “Los Angeles and New York get the headlines, but people should take the time to go and visit Huntsville.”