As Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, the nonprofit that acquired the venue last fall, has inked a 40-year lease with long-time promoter I.M.P.
About a dozen years ago, it looked like all that was in Merriweather was set for a meeting with bulldozers. But members of the community teamed with local legislators to turn their dissatisfaction with the waning condition of the venue, and the lack of top artists it attracted, toward reenergizing the amphitheater.
In 2004, Howard County tapped I.M.P., the Bethesda-based company that owns the 9:30 Club, in Washington, D.C., to take over operations of Merriweather. Each year since, I.M.P. has made improvements, ranging from adding fanciful art to the improving the food options to environmental sustainability. After the improvements, Rolling Stone magazine recognized the Pavilion as being among the best amphitheaters in the nation.
Today, I.M.P. is three years into a five-year, $55 million renovation plan. Already complete is the new box office, concessions, restrooms, stage expansion (to a 62-foot grid height, 82-foot-wide Brazilian Redwood floor, with 48-foot spinning turntable insert enabling five-minute set-changes), lighting and nearly 15,000 square feet of dressing rooms and backstage amenities.
The new backstage is designed to resemble a motel, complete with a pool, including a smaller private pool for the ever-increasing needs of touring artists’ for family time. Numerous rooms, lobby and lounging areas, plus multiple side-stage private viewing platforms, are also part of the upgrades.