When Bob Dylan performed at CMAC in July of 2016, he opened his show with the song “Things Have Changed.”
Not only can he write music, he apparently can see the future.
It would be quite appropriate if that Dylan song were playing outside the main gate at CMAC during the 2018 season, because guests will definitely notice significant changes to the venerable venue.
CMAC partnered with HB Cornerstone, the Pittsford-based design firm, and Genesee Construction of Dansville to create an upgraded concert experience throughout the facility.
- The main entrance has been rebuilt and is now significantly wider.
- The new concession building is triple the size of the previous structure, and food choices have been enhanced.
- Parking in the premium lot (to the north of the amphitheater) is now only available through advance purchase. The $30 fee must be paid when purchasing tickets in advance on Ticketmaster.
- A party patio will be located to the right side of the stage, similar to the del Lago VIP deck that opened on the left side in 2017.
- A 16-foot-by-10-foot LED screen will face the concession building so concert-goers can still see what’s happening on stage. Similar screens also will be inside the venue for an up-close-and-personal look at the performers.
- Additional Canandaigua restaurants will be added to the Community Valet service, which brings patrons to and from the show.
The goal is still to provide guests with an enjoyable, high-quality experience, says CMAC executive director Lynn Freida. A concert at CMAC has always been a rite of summer in the area, often creating unforgettable memories.
Concert-goers will surely like the upgraded entrance, which will feature a huge, lighted “CMAC” above the entryway. “It’s going to be beautiful,” said Chris Tuttle, director of venue operations.
Entering and exiting should be more efficient, too. The old entrance was just 15 feet wide and a bottleneck was possible if masses of patrons all arrived close to showtime, or as they headed home. Now there will be a 30-foot wide opening. Since a security wand is used on all guests, the wider gate and larger plaza will create a more efficient entry experience.
Backpacks still are not permitted. CMAC’s website, cmacevents.com, includes a “Venue Info” section that provides more information on ground rules.
Food choices, as well as ease of access to them, have improved. The new 3,000-square-foot concession building provides more room for the kitchen, as well as storage. The old building had just 900 square feet.
“The new building will definitely enhance our food service,” Freida said.
Added to the menu: barbecue and pizza. “And colder beer and colder wine,” she said.
CMAC’s concessionaire is Best Beverage, which has a national footprint.
“Our concessionaire does Coachella in the desert,” Freida said, referring to the annual music and arts festival in Indio, California. “If you can serve in a desert, you can serve in Canandaigua.”
Best Beverage introduced tacos to the CMAC scene, and a lot of patrons liked the new twist on traditional venue food. But customers also said in surveys that they still like pizza, so it returns.
Best Beverage plans to do more “craft cocktails,” as well. When Santana performed, the Black Magic Woman was available at the bar, a tribute to his song by that name.
“It was sort of a blackberry-muddled margarita,” Freida said. “We take a basic cocktail and add a new twist to it, relating to the artist.”
The Community Valet service was new in 2017, and was a hit, she said. Around 3,000 people took advantage of the service that partnered with four Canandaigua restaurants: Simply Crepes, The Green Front, Macri’s and Nolan’s at Canandaigua Country Club. CMAC is looking at add perhaps four more restaurants to the menu.
Concert-goers must make a reservation with the restaurant, and then an RTS bus provides a ride to and from CMAC. Concert nights aren’t always good for local restaurants, since people who may dine out instead do so at the venue. The valet service allows the eateries to be a part of the event.
This is the second phase of a two-year capital project to upgrade the facility. Construction upgrades are being paid for in part by a $2 million consolidated funding application, or CFA, grant. The grant was secured in 2016 through a partnership with CMAC, Finger Lakes Community College and Ontario County.
“As we look to the 2018 season, our capital improvements and community partnerships will enhance the experience for our CMAC fans,” Freida said, “so they can continue making memories under the CMAC stars for years to come.”