COLUMBIA, Md. – Singer Jack Johnson says his concern about the environment helps him decide which venue’s he’ll play.
“We decided that if we were going to keep coming back and playing venues, they were going to have to do certain things to try to upgrade the concert experience for the fans and a lot of that was greening measures,” Johnson said before a show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia Thursday.
The artist has pushed push the aging venue to invest in green infrastructure and was on hand as local officials announced a $19 million plan update and improve the pavilion.
A couple years ago, Johnson asked Merriweather to add a few eco-friendly features and he says they were excited to do it.
“We love coming back to Merriweather Post and a big reason is because they didn’t make us feel like we are asking for one color M&Ms like those kind of horror stories you hear,” Johnson said. “I really applaud all the changes they’re doing.”
He asked for a bio diesel fueling station and solar panels with a plug-in for his tour buses. And the venue made it happen. Now more improvements, many of them green, are coming to the concert venue that brings the Maryland outdoors and great music together.
After opening in 1967, Merriweather Post Pavilion began hosting the biggest acts of the day. The sounds of Led Zeppelin and Jim Hendrix echoed through the trees.
“You feel like you’re going into the park and seeing a show in the woods,” says Seth Hurwitz of I.M.P., which is an organization contracted to run the venue.
“It’s something that you need to preserve, it something that couldn’t be built today,” he said.
The renovation project that begins in earnest this year is split into five phases. Improvements include new restrooms, seating, concessions, a larger stage and a taller roof, which will make room for bigger productions. The bathrooms and concessions will include eco-friendly devices and products.
“Everytime you come here in the next few years, it will be nicer and more comfortable. And at some point, there will be some real ‘wow’ factor stuff,” Hurwitz said.
The renovations will take place during the offseason through 2019. Howard County will spend $9.5 million and the Howard Hughes Corporation will fund the remaining half.
“After the renovations are done, the venue is going to be donated to a newly formed commission, a non-profit for arts and culture,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.
The Howard Hughes Corp. decided to turn the venue over to th newly formed Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture in a deal with the county that allows the company to move forward with another development project in the county.
Ulman says the non-profit will use the proceeds to operate the venue and to run free shows and events.
Grammy winner Jack Johnson, center back, poses for a photo with Howard County Excutive Ken Ulman, far left, Seth Hurwitz I.M.P., holding a guitar, and members of the county council at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia Thursday. They announced of $19 million renovation project.(WTOP/Mike Murillo)