If you grew up along the Wasatch Front in the ’80′s and ’90s, you remember the summer concerts at the old Park West/Wolf Mountain Amphitheater.
Many of those memories come back quickly with just a quick stroll through the offices of United Concerts in downtown Salt Lake City where pictures of some of the classic concerts from that era hang on the wall.
Unfortunately, because of growth, changes and expansion to the ski resort, those nights eventually came to an end. United Concerts president Jim McNeil was left trying to find a new venue to host the music world’s top artists during the summer concert season.
“That was a real roller coaster ride, trying to find a venue, trying to find the land. Because you really need about 100 acres to do an amphitheater, and finding a piece of land that has minimal interference with the neighborhood and a community that wants an amphitheater,” he said.
As fate would have it, West Valley City was very interested in getting an amphitheater.
“It all came together in about a month,” McNeil said. “(At first, our plans) weren’t working and they weren’t working and couldn’t make a deal and this wasn’t happening and attorneys…and suddenly it just all came together, It fell into place. I guess all the work paid off.”
The result was the state of the art USANA Amphitheatre which turns 10 years old this summer.
“It’s really worked out better than I had hoped for,” he said. “The kind of attendance we’re getting, the support from the community, few crowd control problems…everything has worked out better than I could have anticipated. It’s nice when you beat your own expectations.”
In the past decade, more than one million people have attended more than 120 shows at the USANA Amphitheatre.
This summer there are ten scheduled concerts at USANA including a Beatle, a group that holds the distinction of being one of about five who have sold-out the 20,000 person capacity venue, and one of the most anticipated outdoor concerts of the summer.
“We’re ahead in (pre-sales) all of our shows. The advances are very good,” McNeil said.
This year’s shows are the typical mix of rock and country, as well as show for both a younger and veteran audience.
Ringo Starr will have the distinction of being the first Beatle to play USANA on July 11. Veteran rockers Scorpions, Def Leppard and Poison – who all have Park City memories of their own – will play in June. The Scorps are calling this their final farewell tour while Def Lep and Poison kick off their entire summer tour in Utah.
The rock act that is gaining the most attention, however, and the one that McNeil decided to take a chance with because he wanted to see the show himself, is Iron Maiden on August 1. Based on the ticket sales already, McNeil wasn’t the only one who wanted to see Maiden play in Utah for the first time in 16 years, and the first time in more than 20 years with Bruce Dickinson fronting the band.
“I really wanted to do Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden hasn’t played here since the Salt Palace…..that show is doing extremely well. It’s nice when you guess right,” McNeil said.
One of the big changes this year at USANA will be the parking situation. Because of some development by UDOT over the summer, United Concerts was forced to do some land exchange.
“I’m excited about the parking situation. I certainly wasn’t excited when UDOT showed up a year ago and said, ‘We’re going to run this road through here, is that a problem? Oh, and we’re going to take 17 acres of your parking. That shouldn’t be a problem, should it?’” McNeil said.
But after negotiations, some trading of property and some purchasing of property, McNeil says USANA ended up with about 500 more parking spaces than before, which should accommodate about 1,500 more people.
“We will have more entrances and exits,” he said. “We spent a lot of time working on (parking).”
He hopes that will knock 15-minutes off the time it takes to get everyone out of all the parking lots at the end of a show.
In addition, there will also be a second box office made at the new parking lot for walk-up sales, giving fans, for the first time, another option for day-of-show sales.
The USANA Amphitheatre remains one of the greenest in the nation, garnering praise from the likes of Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson.
In 2007, USANA was the first venues of its kind to be designated as a ‘Green Amphitheatre’ by incorporating recyclable beverage cups, carpool lots, and an increased number of recycling containers on site.
The 2012 USANA summer concert lineup:
• Scorpions/Queensryche (June 11)
• Toby Keith (June 14)
• Def Leppard/Poison (June 20)
• Ringo Starr And His All Starr Band (July 11)
• Big Time Rush (July 25)
• Iron Maiden/Coheed and Cambria (August 1)
• Journey/Pat Benatar/Loverboy (August 3)
• 311/Slightly Stoopid/SOJA (August 22)
• Sugarland (September 1)
• The Australian Pink Floyd Show (September 28)