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DENVER-The Beatles played there in 1964, Jethro Tull in 1971, U-2 in 1983 and The Grateful Dead more than 25 times. Now, the 60-year-old Red Rocks amphitheater on the city’s West Side, which has an almost mystical mystique among rock groups and fans, is closed.

But don’t worry.

It’s only for an estimated nine months, as the city kicks off a $26.4-million renovation, the first major one since 1960, when the stone towers that flank the stage were erected. Red Rocks opened 60 years ago.

It will be closed through May 2002. And even then, its numerous trails, Dinosaur Ridge and the Trading Post, which includes year-round restaurants, will remain open through the construction.

”We feel that it is vital to update the amphitheater to ensure that we are offering our tenants and ultimately their audiences the best service that we can provide as a facility,” says Fabby Hillyard, manager of Denver Theatres and Arenas. “Our mission is to preserve Red Rocks Amphitheater for the enjoyment of future generations. This means that we must use the resources that current technology makes available to us.”

The renovation will focus on updating the water and sewer infrastructure, upgrading available power levels and telecommunications capabilities, and improving the venue’s accessibility for those with disabilities.

To assist in accommodating the estimated 700,000 tourists per year that visit Red Rocks, a visitor center will be constructed at the top of the amphitheater. The center will be located underground without diminishing the current line-of-site or disturbing the beauty of the venue. The 30,000-sf visitor center will feature an elevator to accommodate people with disabilities and will dramatically increase the number of restrooms. Ongoing construction at the visitor center will work towards finishing a restaurant, conference facility, and an incredible display showing the amphitheater’s geologic evolution and entertainment history.

The visitor center will be open to the public year-round.

“We’re not making any unnecessary changes at Red Rocks,” says Mayor Wellington Webb. ”Our goals are to maintain the natural beauty of the amphitheater while ensuring it’s physical future and to accommodate the numerous tourists who make the special trip to visit an internationally recognized icon. We are very sensitive to protecting the natural state of the amphitheater.”

Shaw Construction will provide construction management services at Red Rocks Amphitheater, including field supervision, coordination, scheduling as will as acting as the city’s project manager.

“We are honored to have been chosen to head this project,” says Chuck MacDonald, senior project manager. “Red Rocks is a very important asset to our community and will require special care. The design and construction has been planned to provide first class amenities while maintaining and preserving the historical context of this beautiful facility.”

Sink, Combs, Dethlefs, Inc. is the architectural firm.

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