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Alabama venue makes 2024 Billboards Top Music Venues list

Madison Square Garden. London’s O2 Arena. The Sphere in Las Vegas. SoFi Stadium in the Los Angeles area. Those are the kinds of names on venerable industry magazine Billboard’s 2024 Top Music Venues list. And listed right along with those concert houses of the holy? Huntsville’s Orion Amphitheater.

The 8,000-capacity Orion was named “Top East Coast Amphitheater.” Billboard’s Dave Brooks writes:

“Designed by Mumford & Sons member Ben Lovett’s The Venue Group and financially supported by a who’s who of heavyweights including Forest Hills Stadium’s Mike Luba and Red Light Management’s Coran Capshaw, the classically designed amphitheater draws visitors from all over the world but was built specifically for Huntsville residents. The space is open year-round as a popular dining destination and includes a farmers market, art gallery and large meeting space.”

Some of the other 26-total venues making Billboard’s list include: Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Top East Coast Stadium); London’s Hyde Park (Top International Festival Location); Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl (Top Central U.S. Club or Theater) and Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Top Bucket List Venue).

Since opening in spring 2022, Orion has brought an impressive list of artists to Huntsville. Those include stars like Stevie Nicks, Snoop Dogg, Lana Del Rey, Robert Plant, Jack White, Billy Strings, Ashanti and Jelly Roll. Bands like Weezer and Phish even held tour rehearsals at Orion before performing there.

Orion’s upcoming third season already has Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Lainey Wilson and Greta Van Fleet on the calendar. The venue aims to host more than 40 concerts this year, reps say.

Orion Amphitheater hosted 32 concerts in 2023 and 25 in 2022. When both year one and two are consider, more than 312,000 tickets were sold for. Ticketed events have averaged 87 percent capacity, according to Orion reps.

In addition to concerts, Orion hosted 83 community and cultural events this year, zooming up from 14 last year. This year’s best-attended community events included a Rocket City Pride event and Hispanic-themed celebrating Cultura Festival. This year, 238 local and musicians performed at community events held at Orion.

During Orion’s debut year, the venue received coverage by notable outlets, including a feature story in Rolling Stone magazine.

Of making Billboard’s new top venues list, Orion managing director Ryan Murphy says in a statement, “It is staggering to think about the amazing amphitheaters all across east coast and to be named the very best among these this year I take as a true testament to the incredible work that the team puts into the experience for the artists, crews and fans that visit.”

On social media, Murphy added, “MAJOR kudos to the City [of Huntsville] leadership who have supported us every step of the way.”

Murphy — who previously helped Florida’s St. Augustine Amphitheater overachieve, bringing in stars like Kenrick Lamar, Slayer and Blondie there — called Orion’s Billboard recognition, “one of my proudest moments.”

Orion cost around $40 million to build, funded through the City of Huntsville’s capital plan and a percentage of future lodging taxes. AL.com broke the news of Huntsville’s amphitheater ambitions in April 2018.

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