The bones of Omaha’s next outdoor performance space have risen in the Gene Leahy Mall, adding a new wrinkle to downtown.
Metal arches that will one day form a performance pavilion have gone up in the mall in recent weeks, part of a $400 million public-private renovation of the mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis & Clark Landing.
When the pavilion is finished — likely sometime next spring — three white arches cascading in size will cover a stage. The space will be used for all manner of performances, from concerts, symphony performances and music festivals to movie nights and dance competitions.
“It’s exciting seeing it start to come out of the ground,” said Katie Bassett, vice president of parks for the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority, which is managing the park renovations for the city.
Stretching out from the pavilion to the west will be a 42,000-square-foot green lawn that will be able to host thousands of people for shows and offer a recreation space the rest of the time. The sod for the lawn should be laid sometime around Halloween, Bassett said.
Officials say the venue will be reminiscent of the iconic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, which has a similar arch-shaped covering over the stage. At night, the pavilion will be lit from underneath to create a glow effect, which Bassett said will offer “an iconic” addition to Omaha’s downtown.
When the space is not in use, tables and chairs will dot the stage and a concrete dancing area in the front. Those will be open for public use for downtown workers to eat their lunch or families and friends to gather on the weekends.
People will be able to walk directly onto the stage from the back via a zero-entry design.
Gene Leahy Mall is the furthest along in the overhaul of the three downtown and riverfront parks, as plants, walkways and infrastructure for playgrounds have been installed in recent months. The mall is expected to open to the public next Memorial Day weekend.
Construction continues on Heartland of America Park and Lewis & Clark Landing, which are expected to open in 2023.