New Chicago Shed Gets OK

The proposed Prairie Creek amphitheatre in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates is cleared to break ground by summer with the February 19th approval from the Village Board. Jam Productions, which will build and operate the 9,400-seat shed, is shooting for completion in time for a Memorial Day 2009 opening.

"We’re very happy that we received the thumbs up from the village of Hoffman Estates on all levels," Jam Productions’ Jerry Mickelson told Pollstar. The village board’s vote was the third in recent weeks, affirming recommendations previously made by Hoffman Estates’ planning and zoning commissions.

Jam had hoped to break ground on the $34 million venue much earlier but made architectural and other changes to the shed’s design in response to neighbors’ concerns about noise. The venue will be located on about 10 acres near the Sears Centre as part of an office park and entertainment district.

The venue has no lawn but features a roof that covers all seats. To mitigate noise worries, Jam raised the height of exterior walls, steepened the rake of seating to better absorb sound, and reoriented the building so the stage faces the nearby Sears Centre and away from homes and a planned hotel.

With those changes, plans for Prairie Creek won approval from the various commissions with comfortable margins.

Studies by experts for the village and the amphitheatre concluded that the venue modifications, including using absorbent roof materials, would comply with Illinois Environmental Protection Agency noise limits, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As a condition of the approvals, Hoffman Estates must be allowed to monitor sound levels at the mixing station in "as close to real time as possible," according to the paper.

Village officials reportedly expect Prairie Creek to generate about $294,000 annually in property, sales, entertainment and other taxes until 2013, when economic develop incentives expire.

Mickelson said Prairie Creek, while continuing the tradition of the now-demolished Poplar Creek Music Theatre, represents the new model for outdoor amphitheatres.

"I believe that what we’ve designed is the new state-of-the-art prototypical amphitheatre," Mickelson said. "We’re looking forward to this. It’s in a great part of town and we’re going to build on the legacy of Poplar Creek and build a great new amphitheatre."