The view of the stage of the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor from the 200 section of the new seating areas. Credit: Emily Burnham / BDN

The 2022 concert season on the Bangor Waterfront is getting underway in a venue that looks dramatically different from the way it did during the last full pre-pandemic season in 2019.

Concert goers at the season’s opening show with Lynyrd Skynyrd on Saturday arrived at a venue with four new tiers of seating with comfortable, wider seats; a new, additional entrance and exit at the corner of Main and Railroad streets; and, perhaps most importantly, permanent bathrooms, to replace the portable toilets from years past.

There may still be a few cosmetic elements yet to be completed, but for the most part, by the time Phish arrives in Bangor for its July 16 show, the majority of the renovations at the Maine Savings Amphitheater on the waterfront will be complete.

“I think the two venues between 2019 and now are barely recognizable from one another,” Waterfront Concerts president Alex Gray said. “It’s just a huge improvement all around.”

The wider seats meant that, venue-wide, the amphitheater lost nearly 1,000 seats, reducing its capacity from around 16,000 to around 15,000.

“It was a tradeoff we were willing to make, to improve the overall customer experience,” Gray said. “Some of that loss of seats will require us to raise ticket prices a little bit, but the tradeoff is that it’s just a far nicer experience for the guest.”

The four tiers of seating include the 100 level, where the seats can be removed to create a general admission pit area; the 200 and 300 levels, with permanent seating; and the standing room-only lawn area in the back, construction on which Gray says will be complete before the next concert on July 16. All three rear seating areas are also now on graded slopes, to allow for unobstructed views of the stage.

The 100, or “pit” area of the Maine Savings Amphitheater. Credit: Emily Burnham / BDN

That grading came about from an unexpected collaboration involving the venue, the city and the contractors doing the work to install a 3.8-million gallon sewage tank beneath the Bangor waterfront over the past 2½ years.

The gigantic mounds of dirt from digging the tank were able to stay on site and are now contained underneath the rear seating areas, held in by steel retaining walls. Finding a place to use the dirt so close to the tank eliminated a headache for the city and contractor S.E. MacMillan Co., as the waterfront’s “brownfield” designation — meaning the area is contaminated with heavy metals and other chemicals — meant the dirt either had to stay on site or go to a landfill.

Another element of the venue that is nearly complete is the new, permanent box office, located on the corner of Main and Railroad streets, which Gray said would also be complete this week, alongside the additional entrance.

“The goal is to get people in faster and process their entrance more quickly, so they can get in and start enjoying the venue and the show,” Gray said.

A few other more cosmetic elements will be added over the rest of the summer, though Gray said that they expect everything to be complete by September.

“We are really looking forward to everything being done, because this finally allows us to begin offering more events with the community, like what we just did on the Fourth of July,” Gray said, referring to the free July 4 concert with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. “We’d love to see things like yoga on the lawn, food trucks festivals, maybe the Bangor Band or Penobscot Theatre or the BSO again. We want this to be an anchor for the region that people in Bangor can be proud of.”

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.