After its opening was postponed a year — and then another few months — by the COVID-19 pandemic, Waite Park's new amphitheater will open at full capacity for its inaugural season in July.
The city, along with its contracted production companies, announced Monday two acts for this summer's concert calendar at the Ledge Amphitheater: the Beach Boys on Aug. 11 and the rock band 311 on Sept. 12.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. A spokesperson for the production companies said Monday they don't have a date for when more shows will be announced but they hope to have at least three more national acts booked this year.
The $15 million amphitheater was built between two quarries in Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud. The open-air venue will host up to 6,000 guests for concerts, comedians, movies, vendor shows and community events.
Kansas City-based production companies Mammoth and New West Presentations will book national acts and handle ticketing, advertising and security at the city-owned amphitheater.
Also on this year's schedule is a late July production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" presented by GREAT Theatre, a Waite Park-based company.
Once the management company finalizes the dates for other national acts, the city can plan other community events or book private events, according to City Administrator Shaunna Johnson. Under consideration for this year are concerts featuring local artists or an Oktoberfest-style event.
As of March, city officials hoped for a June 5 opening but with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 restrictions, the schedule was tentative. At the time, the state's limits for outdoor venues were 25% capacity with a maximum of 250 people.
In mid-May, all capacity limits and distancing requirements for outdoor events were eliminated. Masks are no longer required for people who are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated people should still wear a face covering, according to Minnesota regulations.
Johnson said Monday the venue will put in place hand-sanitizing stations and other cleaning measures to help keep people safe.
"I want to make sure that we don't create an environment where we're becoming what they refer to as a superspreader [event]," she said at a City Council meeting Monday night.
Despite a late start this year, the production companies are already booking acts for next year, Johnson said.
"This year, you've got a late announcement of acts and you have a lot of those that have chosen to go to other states that have been more open than ours. So you got more competition and a shorter period of time to be able to get them," she said. "I think it's probably a good thing for us to start with maybe about a half of a season — whatever that looks like — to test that out. We're going to learn a lot this year and we'll know what we can do even better next year."
The city is planning to host an open house for the amphitheater in the coming months.
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299