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Six Things to Know About Red Rocks Amphitheatre's New Roof

The new stage roof at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
The new stage roof at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. IA Stage and Jacqueline Hess
Red Rocks Amphitheatre celebrates its eightieth anniversary this year. The iconic Denver-owned venue is also sporting a new stage roof installed by GH Phipps, replacing one constructed in 1988.

The renovation, which started last fall, is part of the Elevate Denver ten-year bond program, designed to enhance the City and County of Denver through critical infrastructure improvements. The new roof provides more protection from the weather, holds more weight for lighting and other equipment and offers a safer structure for riggers.

“It hasn’t been lost on our design and construction team that the greatest bands, musicians and performers around the world want to perform at this famous venue. We just happen to be ‘performing’ as construction specialists,” explains Kyle Casinelli, project manager for the roof installation on behalf of GH Phipps, in a statement. “The new roof will provide a much more safe platform for stagehands and riggers while providing greater access and more space for more lights, camera and sound via a cable-mesh system. It’s almost as if the stagehands will be able to walk-on-air, while greatly enhancing an already incredible entertainment experience.”
click to enlarge The new Red Rocks roof boasts a state-of-the-art grid. - IA STAGE AND JACQUELINE HESS
The new Red Rocks roof boasts a state-of-the-art grid.
IA Stage and Jacqueline Hess
Some interesting facts about the new roof:

On the Grid
The new roof includes the installation of IA Stage’s SkyDeck tension-wire grid. The grid keeps lighting and audio gear from falling on performers while giving crews maximum flexibility so each tour can install its unique lighting and sound setup. The rigging will be a model for other venues in the future.

In order to fit in with the amphitheater's outdoorsy atmosphere, the new roof includes organic shapes and natural materials like Douglas fir. Also in the mix: concrete and weathered, dark-brown, pre-patinated copper. The roof's unobtrusive size blends into the scenery yet sacrifices nothing in terms of functionality. With heavy timber on structural steel, the design is both modern and historical.

A Big Boost
With touring shows increasing their production over the years, the old roof prevented many acts from bringing their entire set design to Red Rocks. The new roof provides five times the rigging capacity, allowing more bands to bring it all to the venue. The original structure could support roughly 36,000 pounds of rigging equipment. The new structure holds 150,000 pounds.

Easy Setup
A quality roof isn't just able to support gear; it's also built to make it easier for crews to do their jobs. A set of gas-piston-assisted hinged panels, located upstage right, open like double doors, allowing stagehands to bring equipment up through the roughly 5 x 8-foot opening in the grid.

Light as a Feather
While the roof is strong enough to hold massive rigging, it still appears weightless, with supporting columns tapering from bottom to top. Avoiding an industrial aesthetic, the design is unobtrusive and virtually invisible to the crowd.

The roof decking is subjected to both the downward and upward forces of snow and wind, requiring a system designed to resist stresses in two directions. With high winds blasting the venue, the building code required the wood decking of the roof to span ten feet.

Have you been to Red Rocks yet this season? What are your thoughts on the new roof?
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon