The Indian casino in Prior Lake launched an eight-concert outdoor series Sunday.
If you build it, they will come -- even if the building is temporary.
A temporary stage, temporary stadium seats with backs (nice) and portable toilets (nicer than you'd expect) could not deter nearly 6,000 music lovers from checking out sunny San Diego pop star Jason Mraz at the opening of the Twin Cities' first big-time amphitheater Sunday night at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.
"I'm an amphitheater buff and if this is temporary, I've got to believe a permanent amphitheater here would be incredible," said Casey Cambridge, of Prior Lake. "The sound is incredible. The concessions are affordable. And look at that moon."
The Mystic Amphitheater is not one of those 15,000 to 25,000 capacity amphitheaters that Burnsville, Brooklyn Park and other suburbs had been talking about building for the past two decades (so the Twin Cities could be like all other major markets with a summer run of Def Leppard, Blink-182 and Maroon 5).
It's a more modest 8,357-seat venue, with no standing room or blankets on the grass. The new concert site is situated on an extra-wide football-field-long swatch of gently inclined grass between Mystic's hotel and golf course. The stage has a roof; the seats don't.
The seats are a little problematic. Built as supplemental seats for stadiums (some of them were actually used at this year's Super Bowl), these plastic flip-up seats, anchored to metal runners, don't all sit well on slightly sloped grass. "We'll try to tweak those if we can," said Bryan Prettyman, Mystic vice president of marketing. He also said another round of bug repellent -- Mystic had sprayed twice in the previous 48 hours -- would have helped.
The only consistent complaint from concertgoers was no alcohol, which is the policy of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that operates Mystic Lake. However, at least one person appreciated that rule. "I like no alcohol," said Susan Farrell, of Deephaven. "The crowd is quieter. They're here more for the music than the party."
Stuart Bell, of Prior Lake, would like to see "more creative concessions. Even State Fair food would be better." In two giant tents, hot dogs, popcorn, French fries, potato chips, ice cream, candy, water and pop were for sale; everything was $2 but the hot dogs, which were $3.
Several concertgoers praised the relative intimacy of the venue. "No matter where your seat is, you're pretty close," said Brooke Gosch, of Richfield, sitting near the back of the amphitheater, watching the show on two large HD video screens. "I'd definitely come back here, for sure."
Even though the setup is temporary, Mystic has attempted to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation -- even with the portable toilets. The casino actually had attendants cleaning each stall after use. Said Carley Knox, of Minneapolis: "It's the cleanest portable potty I've ever been in."
Permanent setup possible
Befitting its capacity and mission, Mystic has put together a modest but attractive lineup for its first year, including Stevie Nicks, the Beach Boys (already sold out), Daughtry and the hugely popular Carrie Underwood, who could fill an arena. One of the nine scheduled shows, INXS on July 28, has been moved indoors to the 2,100-seat Mystic Showroom. Diamond Rio is playing a free July 4 concert Monday.
After the amphitheater's inaugural season ends with Alan Jackson Sept. 17, Mystic Lake officials will evaluate whether to build a permanent facility on the site. Prettyman said, "Ultimately, it's the tribe's decision."
Concertgoer Cambridge already knows how he'd vote if he had a chance. "Mystic has a real opportunity here," he said. "This would be a smart investment for them to turn it into a real amphitheater and build something cool. If it's cool, they will come."