I recently attended a show at the White River Amphitheatre. I was curious how the thing was conceived, so I found some notes from an early planning meeting….
(Setting: Starbucks, 2001)
Melvin: Well, Tommy,
Carline, you say you have a proposal for the new outdoor concert venue?
Tommy: We do. Can we show it to you now?
Melvin: Please do.
Thanks. We couldn’t get our printer to
work, but we sketched it out on these napkins. Will that work?
Melvin: Perfect – not a
problem at all.
Tommy: So first off,
thanks for the opportunity. We have
really thought about this a long time.
And after careful review, we think we have the perfect location for a
concert arena marketed to Seattle citizens.
Carline: Yes, the
perfect spot is………..halfway between Auburn and Enumclaw.
I’m intrigued. Please explain.
Tommy: Well you see, Seattleites never go to Auburn
or Enumclaw. They have this impression
that it is either too rural, or too far away.
By forcing people to attend shows down there, we will raise the profile
of these vibrant towns.
Melvin: I see. Now, I’m concerned about the fact that there
is only a single 2-lane road from Auburn to the proposed arena site. Walk me through how this would work from a
Carline: Both Tommy
and I feel very strongly, that part of the problem with today’s society,
especially the young people, is that people are in too much of a hurry. If you have one lane in, people will be
forced to take their time and really enjoy the camaraderie of being together.
Tommy: Yes, there is
an old proverb – “The joy is in the journey, not the destination.”
Melvin: Does that
tie into putting the arena on Muckleshoot land?
Melvin: So that
proverb is Native American?
Carline: No not at all. We think it’s Buddhist. But Buddhism originated in China, and India is
close to China. Native Americans here in
the US have been referred to as “Indians.”
So this ties together ancient teachings and wisdom of both
Melvin: Yes, that’s
very moving. Please continue.
Tommy: Plus, The traffic
situation will encourage carpooling, so every concert attendee will leave a
smaller carbon footprint on their way to the event. And since they won’t be able to drive more
than 4 miles per hour, everyone will get much better gas mileage than if they
were driving on a freeway.
really fantastic. What about public
Tommy: We kind of
figured that neither Sound Transit or local metro buses really want to deal
with crowds that may be drinking at the event.
So again, having one way in and out makes a bus route unnecessary, and
even silly. We were afraid that if we
build buses or trains into the transportation plan, we’d get pushback.
Melvin: Yes, that
was really smart. Now, who would handle traffic
control? Is that Seattle PD?
Tommy: Actually no.
SPD has a ton of experience organizing traffic flow around Mariners, Seahawks
and Husky games. Do they really need to
Carline: I mean, it really isn’t fair. When you think about it, the King County Sheriff’s
department doesn’t get any chances.
Because SPD steals all the big gigs, the King County sheriffs have no
skills, competency or ability to handle traffic flow. How
can they be expected to grow professionally if they are denied these chances? It just – just – makes me so mad.
Tommy: We talked to
them, and they said if they had the chance to run traffic for this, in about
15-20 years they would have developed the intelligence and competency to handle a 5,000 person
Melvin: Well it’s
clear they deserve the chance to learn.
Carline: I’m glad
you feel that way as well.
Melvin: Do you think
that could create problems on the roads?
Tommy: Well, we think we can alleviate some of the
road problems, if we make sure there are only 2 lanes out of the arena parking
lot. If we limit it to let 2 cars out every 5
seconds, then that’s 24 per minute. On a
night with 12,000 cars, it would take about 500 minutes to get everyone out. That should really keep the roads from being
Melvin: That really
Tommy: Carline, tell
him the best part.
Carline: Ooh, ooh. This is
what I’m most excited about. We can have
the King County Sheriffs direct people down different country roads, having
them wind around for no apparent reason, and completely devoid of logic.
But from the air, what you’ll see is this amazing array of parking and
headlights that will create organic, wonderful shapes along the ground.
Melvin: That sounds
beautiful. Will people like it?
Carline: Like it?!
They are going to love it. Close your
eyes and imagine this with me if you will.
You start the day with a 2-3 hour long drive with your close friends and
family, communing with each other through a marvelous journey of patience. Then you enjoy music, art’s purest form. The love spills out into the parking lot,
where you sit for hours reminiscing about the magic you have just been exposed
to, sharing your feelings with strangers and friends alike. And then, on top of it all, you are
transported into a real life piece of living art. You are now PART of the art of the evening,
one set of lights among a giant sea of red and white bulbs. You are at the same time an individual, and
part of something much bigger than yourself.
It will be truly nirvana like.
Melvin: Oh I’m
tingling just thinking about it. How do
we staff the parking lots?
embracing the art has wonderful business results. In most lots, with multiple exits, you’d have
to hire people with reasonable skills in deduction, logic or basic
organization. But in this set up, since
the art of chaos is the end-goal, we can hire a much different set of
Carline: Yes, we
felt that we need Yin and Yang together for perfect harmony. And if the people attending the events can
afford expensive tickets, we needed poorer employees to balance that out. We can employ anyone, regardless of
education, income, ability to speak, or really, even to see. All they need to do is hold a flashlight and
point people towards nothing.
Melvin: So they
would offer no advice or facilitate the exit in any way.
Carline NO! THEY CAN’T!!!!!
I’m sorry. But for the art to be truly
free-forming, people must be allowed to choose their own way. They have to actively decide to get in the
line. If they are told to skip the
lines, the entire chain would be broken.
We can’t allow the employees to have the ability to be helpful at all.
Tommy: Plus, from an
economic perspective, this gives you the chance to hire people who really have
no other ability to work. It’s very
Melvin: I love
it. Great for the soul, great for the
economy. I gotta say, you guys are
really knocking the cover off the ball here.
One last question. I notice in
your design of the building itself, you have the stage amphitheatre face one
direction, with a closed back. But then
you put all of the food and drink all the way behind the stage. I’ve been to shows before where they put the
food courts high and far away, but in front of the stage, so people could walk up from their seats to buy food and drink and
still watch the show. Walk me through
your idea here.
Tommy: Well there are a couple of thoughts. One, it’s really just rude to get
up and leave a performance and go order food and drink. The artists train for years for this, so we really don’t want to encourage people
to be distracted.
Carline: Also, we
have a severe problem with over-eating in this country. We can cut down on the number of calories the
attendees consume, by making it nearly impossible to buy food. You’ll also notice that there are not nearly
enough stands to accommodate everyone, and that buying food would require at
least a 30 minute wait in line.
Melvin: (Laughs) Oh
I noticed that – very savvy move.
Tommy: But I bet you
did not notice one other little part of the design. There’s not enough storage to hold food to
feed 25,000 people. So even if they
wanted to eat fattening food, were willing to walk behind the stage, AND wait
30 minutes, we have it set up so when they get to the front of the line, all
they can order is a coke. You see, there’s
just no way to serve everyone.
Melvin: Wow, you are
right, I completely missed that. And I
thought I had you guys on that one. Well
question. Suppose Seattle builds an
outdoor amphitheatre? Would we suffer?
Tommy: We looked
into that. An outdoor concert venue inside
Seattle proper is necessary, would be profitable, and could easily be part of a
larger overhaul to Seattle Center. It’s
a project that makes sense both socially and fiscally, and would benefit
hundreds of thousands of people, so
there’s really no threat that the City Council will ever consider it. Right now, they are focused on self-cleaning
toilets that a few homeless people might use.
That’s really more the kind of project they are interested in.
point. Well I’ve seen enough. Everything seems perfect. When can you guy start work?
Tommy: Well I need to talk to my mom, but Carline
and I get done with school at 2:40 every day.
So, if one of our parents can drive us, we could be here by 3:00.
Perfect. Let’s get this project moving!