Overture to the People’s Playground: Pols open Coney’s new amphitheater

Overture to the People’s Playground: Pols open Coney’s new amphitheater
Photo by Louise Wateridge

And these big names were just the opening act.

Mayor DeBlasio, former beep Marty Markowitz, and Brooklyn pols cut the ribbon on Coney Island’s new 5,000-seat Ford Amphitheater at the newly renovated Childs Restaurant building on June 29 — just in time for a major concert series over Fourth of July weekend. The opening struck a chord with Markowitz, who proposed converting the landmark into a bandshell in 2013 after he tried and failed to create one at nearby Asser Levy Park back in 2009.

“It was a long road to achieving this, and like most everything else you have to crawl and beg to do good, it sounds crazy but that’s how it is here, and I crawled and begged for this,” he said. “This is a really positive page turning for Coney Island and Brooklyn and New York City — and it will be for many years to come.”

Live Nation is handling booking and has more than 40 concerts lined up — including the Beach Boys (sans Brian Wilson and two other founders) on July 4, Boston (well most of Boston) on Aug. 10, and Counting Crows on Aug. 16 — in addition to sports events, comedy shows, and cultural festivals, officials said.

Three summer concerts will be completely free, and operators have set aside 1,000 free tickets for three other shows, officials said.

The music hall — which will employ 182 Brooklynites including 42 Coney Islanders — is the latest movement in a decade-old, city-orchestrated push to revitalize the amusement district through new housing, retail, and fun-park construction, DeBlasio said.

“The opening of this world-class amphitheater is just the latest milestone in our ongoing commitment to a thriving Coney Island, with new affordable housing, open space, and even more good jobs on the way,” he said.

Markowitz has tickets for the Sting and Peter Gabriel concert on July 3, and he is eying tickets for Don Henley in September. And the borough booster is particularly excited about the erstwhile Police bassist — Markowitz tried several times to hire Sting for his free summer concert series, but could never afford him, he said.

Some fear the new attraction will bring even more traffic to the summer destination, and a few lamented the project because the city leveled a long-standing community garden to build the seating area. But many area leaders have lauded the concert hall as a good addition.

The amphitheater’s construction hit frequent snags while workers scrambled to complete it by late June, and the city did not issue the building a certificate of occupancy until two days after the first show on June 25, city records show.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.
Plenty of room: The 5,000-seat Ford Amphitheater built partially into the landmarked Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk hosts the Impractical Jokers, Sting and Peter Gabriel, and the Beach Boys on Fourth of July weekend.
Photo by Louise Wateridge