PNC Bank Arts Center Renovation
Improvements to historic open-air amphitheater campus improve the safety, comfort, and overall customer experience
New Jersey Turnpike Authority
New Jersey State Police, LiveNation
Architectural and Engineering Design
Construction Cost: $24 million (project program)
Duration: 3 years
Hosting thousands of performances since 1968, the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., is famous for its open-air amphitheater’s futuristic saucer-like roof and intimate outdoor setting for concerts and shows.
Since its opening over 50 years ago, the venue has undergone several expansions to accommodate a growing guest count, now at 17,500. Even so, the seating, concessions, bathrooms, and infrastructure systems no longer met the needs of its customers.
To improve guests’ safety, comfort, and overall experience at the venue, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) contracted with Gannett Fleming to provide architectural and engineering design services. Despite COVID-19 pandemic-related construction delays and concert cancellations, concertgoers up and down the East Coast were eager to rock again at the PNC Bank Arts Center.
What We Did
Improving the overall guest experience was a priority, starting with improving the flow of people. During intermissions, there was an erratic crisscrossing pattern of people moving throughout the plazas resulting in lengthy intertwined queues that acted as barriers. Gannett Fleming attended several events to observe and document the flow and patterns of concertgoers. Our experience in transportation operations and with moving large volumes of pedestrians provided a unique perspective for solutions.
The new plaza design improves circulation by separating the flow of people to different plaza destinations. This flow disentanglement is enhanced by employing a unidirectional flow pattern throughout the expanded restroom facilities. The team further reduced queues by improving access to expanded concession points and restrooms.
The project involved:
- Constructing nine new buildings.
- Demolishing six existing buildings, two of which were underground.
- Renovating the existing administration building and selective backstage work, including the green room.
- Upgrading campus-wide power, lighting, IT, fire protection, and security.
- Rehabilitating the amphitheater seating area, including the replacement of 2,200 seats.
Noted modernist architect Edward Durell Stone designed the PNC Bank Arts Center. Preserving the original design and aesthetics, while adding modern infrastructure improvements, required an intensive historic architectural survey, archaeological research, and architectural design efforts. The New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office approved Gannett Fleming’s design plan that sensitively maintained the facilities’ unique character.
Due to the complexity of construction, the team completed the work in two phases. As a warm-weather, outdoor event facility, work was scheduled between concert seasons. Therefore, the project was designed and planned for cold weather construction. Phase one construction began in September 2019 with the intention to run until May 2020. Construction was on schedule until the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, pushing back completion and closing the venue for the 2020 season.
The pandemic impacts went beyond material deliveries, hygiene, and social distancing requirements on the job. The State of New Jersey set up one of the first public COVID-19 testing sites in the facility parking lot, complicating site access. Even though completion of phase one work lagged due to the pandemic, phase two was able to start sooner with the facility closed for the 2020 season. Therefore, phase two was completed ahead of the original May 2021 schedule.
- Nine new buildings surrounding the amphitheater offer increased restroom and concession access.
- Despite plumbing fixture count increasing by 38 percent, high-efficiency fixtures hold the increase in water and sewage flow to only 12 percent.
- Replacement of 2,200 seats in the amphitheater enhances guest comfort.
- A campus-wide fire alarm system bolsters customer safety.
Awards & Recognition
- ACEC New Jersey 2022 Distinguished Project Award.
Guests’ overall experience is enhanced by additional conveniences, shorter lines, and aesthetic continuity.
New plaza design improves pedestrian circulation by separating the flow of people to different plaza destinations.
Design sensitively preserved the facility’s unique character.
Renovations made during the off-season caused no impact to the performance season.