Published: July 11, 2014
The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater located in Vail, Colorado, is a remarkable outdoor venue nestled along the hillside with a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains, and it is about to become even more enticing. A new entrance experience to the amphitheater, dubbed “The Lobby”, will be complete by the amphitheater’s summer opening on June 15.
Located adjacent to the Betty Ford Alpine gardens and Ford Park in beautiful Vail, Colorado, the Lobby will serve not only as an impressive entrance to the amphitheater, but also as a shelter from inclement weather, a social gathering point prior to entering the amphitheater, and a place for ticket and bag check. These new facilities will allow for a smooth transition into the venue, which is a significant improvement.
Within the Lobby, there will also reside a mini-stage that can accommodate pre-show performances, along with a new stand for concessions, and restrooms. Around the perimeter of the space rests informal boulder seating, and alpine landscapes boarder the surrounding walls. Overall, the aesthetics of the space mirror the pristine landscape and enjoyable outdoor atmosphere.
The Vail Valley Foundation worked with the design architect, Zehren & Associates, and engineer Monroe & Newell to construct this new “social plaza” outside the amphitheater. The Foundation envisioned an iconic entrance that would not only accommodate guests, protect against the elements, and provide facilities, but one that would also recognize and celebrate the Ford family and mirror the atmosphere of the Amphitheater. Under the Vail Valley Foundation, Zehren’s team of architects reached out to Birdair to help make this vision a reality.
The leading specialty design build contractor for custom tensile membrane structures around the world, Birdair contributed to the outdoor aesthetics of the Ford Amphitheater by designing, fabricating, and installing approximately 5,500 square feet of its PTFE fiberglass membrane canopies. PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene, is a Teflon®-coated woven fiberglass membrane that is extremely durable and weather resistant.
“Our tensile fabric structure not only offers a signature look to the entrance of the Amphitheater, but also provides individuals attending events at the Amphitheater protection from the elements, no matter what season, and fits comfortably into the surrounding landscape.”
Providing Much Needed Cover
Birdair’s PTFE fiberglass membranes can be installed in climates ranging from the most frigid winter temperatures to scorching desert heat. The altitude at Vail’s base is 8,120 feet above sea level, and 11,570 at its highest point. Because of this high altitude, the temperature can vary significantly from day to night, and winters can be very cold, with snowfall as early as October and as late as May. Just as Vail can be extremely cold, it can also be quite hot in the summers.
According to the website, BestPlaces, Vail averages 247 sunny days a year. These sunny days, while beautiful, can be dangerous. However, Birdair’s PTFE fiber coating is chemically inert, capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. It is also completely immune to dangerous UV radiation. This unique combination of inertness, thermal stability and surface properties make this fabric membrane ideal for projects requiring superior weather and fire resistance
As a result, the canopy will make the amphitheater space even more open, and will give those who sit on the lawn during a performance an escape during summer showers or storms, or shade during an extremely hot day. Additionally, the canopy is designed for the regional snow loads during the harsh winter months.
Sheltering a Tribute
The lobby will also be home to a Ford family tribute: a series of symbolic sculptures and interpretive elements intended as homage to President and Mrs. Ford and their family. This tribute is intended to be a new landmark in the town of Vail celebrating the family’s commitment to their adopted hometown, and the positive changes that they have instilled within the community. Ultimately, the light, tensile membrane covering the lobby will be instrumental in protecting and preserving this memorial.
Providing an Economically Sustainable Solution
Harry Frampton, the Vail Valley Foundation Board Chairman called the amphitheater “critical” to Vail’s summer economy, and noted that while the lobby– along with its restrooms, and Ford family tribute– would be open most of the year, it would only be open to those with tickets during concerts, dance performances, and other events at the venue.
The architects made a fitting choice choosing Birdair whose fabric structures are not only visually appealing but also environmentally sensitive and economically competitive. The low maintenance tensile structure is a cost-effective solution that requires less structural steel to support a roof or façade, enabling long spans of column-free space. This also allows for the space to be manipulated to suit the specific needs of the amphitheater.
Creating a Unique Experience
The Lobby not only has various functions, but also will create a unique experience for those who attend performances at the amphitheater. Heavy, commercial building products would take away from the natural feel of the venue. Conversely, the attractiveness and natural shape and color of the canopy create a harmony between the Lobby and the Amphitheater, and will provide the lobby with a signature look for years to come.
Teflon® is a registered trademark of E. I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company, Delaware.
Download PDF Version: BIR_GeraldFordAmphitheater_ProjectOverview_final (7-8-14).pdf
Location: Vail, Colorado
About Birdair: Birdair, Inc. is the leading specialty contractor of custom tensile structures throughout the world. In addition to pre-construction services such as design assistance, budgeting, construction methodologies and project scheduling, Birdair provides design-build solutions in all aspects of project design, engineering, installation and maintenance. The company offers a selection of architectural fabric membranes, including PTFE fiberglass, ETFE film, PVC and Tensotherm™. Birdair, based in Buffalo, NY, is a member of the Taiyo Kogyo Group, with operations serving North and South America and other international locations. For more information about Birdair, like us on Facebook, call 1-800-622-2246 or visit www.birdair.com.