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Lithia Motors Amphitheater Opened Last Night

CENTRAL POINT, Oregon (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — According to the Mail Tribune Central Point’s spanking new performance venue opened Friday with a concert by the Steve Miller Band, the only work that’s still going on is small stuff — some fencing, seat numbers, minor details.

"It’s ready and waiting," Expo manager Chris Borovansky says of the Lithia Motors Amphitheater at the county’s Expo Park. "It’s exciting and terrifying."

The excitement is obvious. Bigger shows. The terror enters because things tend not to go perfect right out of the gate. Traffic, for one thing, could be a nightmare.

"We’re on a little two-lane country road," Borovansky says. "There’s nothing we can do about that."

Despite the mix of a new venue, new rules, lots of traffic and the unforeseen, concert-goers can take steps to ensure a good experience, Borovansky says. The first thing for patrons to understand that the Lithia Amphitheater is not, repeat NOT, Britt.

"I love Britt," Borovansky says. "We’re lucky to have it.

"But it’s an anomaly. Go to the Rose Garden, go to Red Rocks, go to virtually any amphitheater in the country, and it’s not like Britt.

"This is like every place else. We’re basically extending the policies we’ve had at the Expo for years."

That means that the guy who shows up with a cooler of beer and a chicken dinner will find that — unlike at Britt, but like almost everywhere else — he can’t take it in. Concert- goers will not be able to bring in beer, soda pop, food, lawn chairs or anything else on a long list of prohibited items.

"That’s the main thing for people to get," Britt’s Ron McUne says. "It’s a pretty typical venue."

To repeat: Although three Britt shows will be held at the amphitheater this summer, the amphitheater is not Britt.

The amphitheater is at the county fairgrounds and is overseen by the fair board. Britt is also on county land, and it’s overseen by its own board. It started as a small classical series and somehow kept a lot of cozy, user-friendly traditions as it grew larger.

Everybody entering the amphitheater will be subject to being searched. If you wear a fanny pack, you should expect to have it searched. You cannot bring in cameras (because many digital cameras have video capability, and virtually all touring acts forbid taping).

People entering the parking lot ($3) will be given a list of things not to bring in an effort to ward off unpleasant surprises at the gate, Borovansky says.

The parking lot will be open three hours before shows, but a no-tailgating rule will be enforced strictly with regard to cooking on camp stoves and particularly alcohol.

"It’s a no-no," Borovansky says. "We’ve always had a ban on alcohol in the parking lots."

Some venues have special sections for tail-gate parties, he added, and the Expo could look into such a plan in the future.

He says the whole place is wheelchair accessible. There is no smoking except in a couple designated areas.

Concert-goers will not only see bands that couldn’t play here before for lack of a big enough venue, they’ll hear them. The decibel limit is 95 at the monitor 140 feet from the stage (it’s 90 at Britt).

The new facility was built next to a pond and faces Mount McLoughlin and Roxy Ann Butte. It will not have a tent-like structure shown in conceptual drawings a couple years ago. Too difficult to engineer, and too expensive.

"It’s a shiny new penny," Borovansky says. "We didn’t try to recreate Britt, but it’s fundamentally sound, and we hope to improve over next couple years."

The $4 million facility is free and clear of debt and represents a new income stream for the fair. It has no lights or sound of its own. When a contract calls for a production package in addition to the touring act’s equipment, the Expo will turn to Garon Lee Sound of Jacksonville and lighting guru Bob Peterson, who lights the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The sound board will be set up behind the 1,900 reserved seats and near the front of the 4,000 lawn seats.

All five county fair acts this summer, the only acts lined up so far other than the Britt shows (Miller, B.B. King Aug. 11 and ZZ Top Sept. 20), will be presented in the new venue, with free lawn seats and $15 reserved seats.

Officials are talking with promoters for other dates, Borovansky says. He can’t name names.

"We’re in negotiations," he says. "There are discussions, but nothing firm."

He said the Expo will likely present some shows but prefers to rent the facility to other presenters.

"We’d rather be the house because that we always make money," he says. "The promoter is the last to get paid."

McUne says there’s an outside chance of Britt presenting another show this summer, but it would have to be an act with a younger demographic than Britt’s predominately baby boomer crowd. About 5,000 tickets for Steve Miller have been sold, he says.

"It’s going to be a little slow at first," Borovansky says. "We’ll make our best effort. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."