Ready to Rock: Nickel Plate District Amphitheatre holds soft opening


Event coordinator Bob McCutcheon, right, and parks director Tony Elliot display the new amphitheater. (Submitted image)

After 26 rain delays between February and April, the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater is finally open. It held a soft opening July 13 with a performance by Jennie DeVoe.

A grand opening has not been scheduled, but the amphitheater stage, lighting and sound are all complete. A little more construction is ongoing on the south of the stage on the lawn. The 1,700-square-foot pavilion will likely be called the Cube, and it will provide meeting space, more restrooms and a splash pad on its south side.

In addition to having a much larger stage than its predecessor, the new amphitheater features a VUE sound system, such as those used by Janet Jackson and other major acts. According to event coordinator Bob McCutcheon, few, if any, venues in the nation in a city of Fishers’ size has a similar sound system.

“The sound system is really state-of-the-art,” parks director Tony Elliot said. “I think it lends to the popularity of this venue and to it being a venue that’ll last here for decades. It parallels or rivals any of the great venues in Indiana.”

“It’ll be a rock show, and it’ll have a loud sound system,” said McCutcheon, a self-proclaimed professor of rock and roll. “We wanted something that had that much clarification.”

High-impact LED lights were installed in the new Nickel Plate District Amphitheater.

High-impact LED lights were installed in the new Nickel Plate District Amphitheater.

In addition to the sound system, stage lights were improved as well. They are now high-impact LEDs, and each light has six different settings. Previously, six separate lights were required to produce six different colors, but now, one high-impact LED light takes care of all six settings.

The new amphitheater cost $6 million, and an additional $30,000 was added to the entertainment budget.

“When we built the (original) amphitheater, we built it very economically. The whole thing was about $1 million,” Mayor Scott Fadness said. “The idea was to see whether or not there was an appetite in the community to have larger events down here, and it’s just grown. The popularity has grown well beyond anything we could imagine – 150,000 residents came to visit the amp area last year. As that demand has grown, the need for more robust infrastructure has come with it.”

Fadness said a Tuesday night concert event could draw anywhere from 3,500 to 6,000 people to the amphitheater. Although it costs more to draw national acts, the opportunity for sponsorships has increased.

The possibility of hosting ticketed-concerts are being discussed because selling tickets is a way to regulate crowd size and pay for larger acts. However, local bands will still have a place at the amphitheater.

“We will continue to have a lot of those types, like My Yellow Rickshaw, but we now have an opportunity to grab a larger national act,” Fadness said. “We are able to pull off concerts and have a good crowd show up, and that builds our legitimacy in the music community.”

A rendering of the completed Cube south of the amphitheater (Submitted photo)

How to draw a national act

With all of the new amenities at the amphitheater, the City of Fishers now has the opportunity to feature national acts on stage. Besides high costs, event coordinator Bob McCutcheon said there’s a system that must be followed to attract a high-profile performer — such as showcasing venue amenities.

“First of all, when you go for a national act, you have to send an offering to an agent, and he takes it to the management company and you start your negotiations,” McCutcheon said. “The problem I had before was my competition would show them pictures of our stage.”

When McCutcheon began negotiations for Nickel Plate District Amphitheater shows, such as Sugar Ray, Houndmouth and Manchester Orchestra, other music venues would send the agencies a picture of the amphitheater’s old setup, which had a shallow stage, to deter the deal.

“Now, we’ll be able to get new pictures at the shows, and that will discredit anyone (of our competitors),” McCutcheon said.