American Family Insurance Amphitheater Renovation

Posted By: Robert Schumacher Awards,

2021 Engineering Excellence Best of State

Entering Firm: Larson Engineering Inc.
Client: Milwaukee World Festival Inc.

A historic venue. The world’s largest outdoor music festival. There are not many engineering projects with more star power than renovating the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at Summerfest. The original structure was built in 1987 and was in desperate need of a facelift. The venue was no longer capable of hosting modern acts.

Raising the Roof

Larson Engineering was up to the challenge. The main hurdle was to raise the roof from 39 feet to 65 feet. One of the first plans was to demolish and rebuild the venue but it was deemed wasteful and expensive. Instead, the design team and client developed a staged process that would perform renovation work on the existing structure. The work was staged to occur in the off-season and proceeded over a two-year span.

One of the most important aspects was designing a process that could achieve the roof lift. Unique elements of this project included the segmented fan shape of the roof and the cold weather during the work, such as the negative ten-degree temperature during the actual roof lift.

Awards judge Jerry Deschane said, “This project will be a guiding star for property owners who want to preserve what’s best about their older facility while making the most of modern building and design techniques.”

Time to Start the Show

Larson Engineering was the rock star this time. By carefully designing and coordinating the roof lift, the amphitheater can continue to serve as the focal point of Summerfest. This will allow the festival to attract top acts and provide a vibrant music environment on Milwaukee’s lakefront.

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