Originally created 08/25/06

Pop Rocks: Baseball stadium is perfect for shows

Augusta could find itself with a new venue if the Augusta GreenJackets are willing to play ball.

Reviews of the Bob Dylan show, which took place at Lake Olmstead Stadium on Aug. 17, were surprisingly mixed.

Many found the folk singer's grit-and-gravel performance disconcerting, complaining that even the famously discordant Mr. Dylan seems to have lost some of his vocal chops. Others were put off by opener Junior Brown's strict adherence to honky tonk and Jimmie Vaughan's to Texas blues.

But there was one thing everyone seemed to agree on. Lake Olmstead Stadium is a fantastic place to see a show.

The planets seemed to align for Mr. Dylan and company. The summer squalls that had been blowing through for most of the week took a welcomed break, and the stifling heat expected during a mid-August evening never made an appearance.

Still, the stadium built for ball proved just about right for bands.

Now, the question is this: Can the momentum garnered from the successful Dylan date be exploited, with the stadium becoming a music venue and a sports facility?

Priority must be given to the facility's primary tenants, the Augusta GreenJackets.

What happens, though, when the team is on the road or during those few months when there is a break from baseball?

Though the outdoor venue isn't going to be very appealing in January, there are a few warm months between baseball's autumn end and spring start. Perhaps a gig or two could be booked for those months.

Certainly the Dylan gig taught a few lessons. For instance, the outdoor stadium can be wired for quality sound.

Particularly bright was the idea to set up small stacks of speakers that pointed toward the bleachers, in addition to the traditional stacks radiating from the stage.

What Lake Olmstead offers is an alternative. Not only is it a large outdoor venue with built-in facilities but it's also a place with flexibility.

For the Dylan show, the stage was just behind second base, with the outfield left open.

With that configuration, perhaps 7,000 people could have crowded in, 6,000 comfortably.

By moving the stage back, at least halfway between second and home run territory, an additional 2,000 to 3,000 might be able to fit, particularly if the picnic area along the third base line is brought into play.

That's a venue with a capacity of 10,000. You're not going to get the Rolling Stones with that, but there are a lot of A-list acts that won't play for a crowd that size.

Of course, some details would have to be worked out.

For instance, a guarantee that the playing field wouldn't be destroyed by the occasional rock 'n' roll event would be required. There's also the question of attendance.

Augusta is a notoriously fickle town, with too many concerts left under-attended.

That Mr. Dylan, a musical legend, didn't sell out, is a testament to our collective musical apathy.

Still, I harbor the hope that there is a magic bullet that might transform Augusta from a city too often detoured to a favored spot for a tour stop.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.


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