R.J. Harding, president of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, answers questions before the Gilford Planning Board during approval of a new swimming pool and lazy river attraction for performers and their entourages at the amphitheatre. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)
Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook owner foresees many upgrades for Gilford venue
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — R.J. Harding said he hopes to engrave the Lakes Region on the memories of visiting performers who come to play at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook.
In the live-concerts industry, Harding said he plans to gain a reputation not just through the area's natural beauty but through extras that can't be found at other venues.
Such is the case with a new swimming pool and a water park feature called a "lazy river," a waterway for gentle tubing and flotation that loops around the pool. Both will cater exclusively to visiting artists and their crews.
Harding, the president of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, said his wife actually pushed for the addition, which received the blessing of the Gilford Planning Board Monday.
"My wife talked to me for 10 years about having a lazy river, and I told her she was nuts, we would never do that," Harding said, laughing, during an interview Monday night.
Today, anything is possible, and Harding hinted at other improvements to come at the 9,000-seat outdoor amphitheater.
After the death of his father and Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center founder, Robert Harding, R.J. Harding became a part owner of what he calls "New England's finest concert venue."
Harding said he works with founding partners, the Gelottes. The late William Gelotte was one of the founding partners and chairman of the board for Meadowbrook Farm LLC.
"We're not done. This is just the start," Harding said Monday, as the Planning Board reviewed his proposal.
"Now we're getting into more multi-night performances," he explained. "We really found our niche in our industry by excellent hospitality starting with catering years ago and now it's been everything else you can think of, our beautiful lake and boating. Now people are starting to stay four and five days this year, and we thought it was worth the investment to cement that reputation within the industry. Gilford has become one of the places across the country where acts want to play. I wanted to put the nail in that coffin, and make them never forget us, basically."
Once the pool and lazy river become established features, Harding said he will explore other amenities.
"I'll definitely be adding on to it, whether it be bungalows and suites up there, or I'll extend the lazy river, maybe, and keep going," he said. "No venue has done this stuff."
The venues that get mentioned as "the place to play" include Red Rocks in Colorado, a longtime destination for top artists.
"My wife and I decided years ago we needed to build our own Red Rocks and we'll do it through things like that, hospitality, and it's working, but they also come to expect new things every year," Harding said.
In 1996, Meadowbrook consisted of temporary staging with 2,500 temporary seats and room for 2,000 lawn guests. Today the venue consists of 5,746 reserved seats under the pavilion roof and 1,850 general admission lawn seats, according to its website, https://banknhpavilion.com.
The 2017 season opens with the Zac Brown Band, May 27-29; and other performances include the Avett Brothers, June 1; Miranda Lambert, The Cadillac Three and Tucker Beathard, June 2-3; Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Indigo Girls, June 16; Bryan Adams, June 17; and Third Eye Blind & Silversun Pickups, June 20.
During Monday's meeting, Harding explained that existing bathrooms and changing areas will complement the new pool and lazy river.
In 2011, Meadowbrook built a crew room with six showers, three for each gender, Harding said.
Harding said the pool and lazy river would be reserved for the performers and their crews. Asked about the prospect of renting out the facility for the general public, Harding said, "I have no interest in becoming a pool party rental guy. I hope I never have to get to that point in the financial scheme of things."