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New Stage AE to focus on music

| Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010

In 2002, during a concert at the A.J. Palumbo Center, Elvis Costello asked the audience, "Why don't you people build a concert hall?" Expletive deleted, of course.

Finally, Costello's challenge has been answered, and a guy from Ohio did it.

On Friday and Saturday, Stage AE will debut with concerts featuring Girl Talk, the mash-up artist/DJ from Bridgeville.

Conceived by Scott Stienecker, the president of PromoWest Productions in Columbus, Stage AE is the first large venue in Western Pennsylvania built with the concert experience in mind. It is located along North Shore Drive in an area formerly occupied by parking lots for Heinz Field.

"A lot of people will take an old theater or some other building and try to make it work," Stienecker says. "This building was built from the ground up for music."

Stage AE is modeled after the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus, which opened in 2001 and was the first indoor/outdoor concert venue in the United States. The Pittsburgh venue is slightly bigger, with a capacity of 5,500 for outdoor shows, and 2,400 for indoor shows. Stage AE also will host club shows, with an expected capacity of 400.

The key element is a stage that can be used for both indoor and outdoor concerts, with a hangar-like door (Stienecker patented the design) bisecting the stage. On days when inclement weather is expected, outdoor concerts can be moved indoors if no more than 2,400 tickets have been sold.

Other features:

• A gently sloping lawn area that also can accommodate chairs if the performance calls for seating.

• Luxury seats in 28 boxes that ring the second level of the indoor venue, with an approximate capacity of 240.

• State-of-the-art sound by Clair Global, of Lititz, Lancaster County, a company that has provided sound for U2, Roger Waters and Sting and is acknowledged as the world's largest provider of concert audio systems. Lighting will be by Bandit Lites of Nashville.

• Plans for a television show that's modeled after "PromoWest Live," a look at concerts and music in Columbus. The local version is slated to start in April.

• Up to five dressing rooms, with a kitchen and dining area, for performers.

• Meeting rooms for news conferences, private functions and business meetings.

• Food service by Aramark, the vendor that serves Heinz Field and PNC Park.

Musically, Stage AE will target the college and young professional demographic. In addition to Girl Talk's shows this week, the venue will host the Kickass Xmas Show, featuring Cake and Anberlin, Dec. 6; George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Dec. 10; Pittsburgh-based rapper Wiz Khalifa for two sold-out shows on Dec. 16 and 17, and Pittsburgh's the Clarks, Dec. 29.

Acts are currently being booked for 2011; Steinecker would only confirm a show by Flogging Molly sometime in March.

Stienecker hopes to host 150 events in the next year, noting that the venue is available for private events such as graduation parties. Stage AE also will be working with the Steelers on events for the remaining home games on the team's schedule, and hopes to forge a similar agreement with Pirates next year.

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