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(INDIANAPOLIS) – The White River State Park amphitheater is adding permanent seats and a permanent stage.

The 17-million-dollar upgrade to The Lawn actually began this year with 16 new restrooms, after years of steering concertgoers to Port-a-Potties or the nearby visitors center. Next sweason, there’ll be 40 more, to go with 3,000 permanent seats. There’ll still be lawn seating for 4,500 people.

Live Nation vice president Tom Mendenhall says when the Lawn opened in 2004, the promoter didn’t anticipate the appetite for a downtown concert venue. At that time, the Lawn was hosting eight concerts a year, and the park commission wanted to keep the park a traditional park the other 357 days. Live Nation would put up a stage the day of a show and tear it down the next day. After three years, the amphitheater upgraded slightly, with a stage that would go in place in April before the start of the season and come down in the fall.

The Lawn now hosts about 25 concerts a year, and park development commission executive director Carolene Mays-Medley says there are some acts which flatly refuse to perform on temporary stages.  She says the improvements will let the park expand its concert schedule and attract performers it couldn’t before.

The amphitheater will add permanent stage lighting as well, and a new building with dressing rooms and shower areas for artists and their road crews. In the past, Mendenhall says Live Nation has booked hotel rooms across from the park just to give crewmembers a place to clean up.

Mays-Medley says the upgrade may not be the last of the improvements. If the park can line up the funding, she’d like to add a canopy to shield the new permanent seats from bad weather, reducing the number of concert cancellations.

Artist’s conception of the new White River State Park stage, in front of the construction site (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)