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A building contract could be signed as early as this week for renovations at the Merriweather Post Pavilion that will expand bus parking areas and loading bays and upgrade an enclosed lounge area for artists and crew members, the facility's manager said.

The 14,200-seat performance venue also will get a new covered area for setting up stage equipment, an addition that will make it easier and faster to change acts, said General Manager Jean Parker.

The renovations come as the 30-year-old arena faces increasing competition from larger, more modern concert sites in the region.

Although many artists prefer Merriweather Post for its woodsy setting and proximity to Baltimore and Washington, some acts have declined to book the facility because their massive, high-tech sets simply won't fit inside, Parker said.

In some cases, Merriweather's 35-foot ceiling has been too low for groups like The Who, which recently abandoned negotiations with Merriweather because the crew needed 43 feet of clearance on its covered stage for a large video screen, she said.

"We also had a competitive bid with Rush, and it looked good," she said. "But with their inside requirements, there was no way they were going to fit in here. There really is a trend with artists coming in with larger productions."

The only way to alleviate the height problem would be to demolish the building and replace it with a taller one. This is not a consideration, Parker said.

Contractors are currently submitting bids to do the renovations, but no price estimate is available, she said.

The upgrades will start next month and could be completed by the first weekend in June -- a week before a June 12 performance by several nationally known classic rock bands, she said.

The changes will triple the number of loading bays for equipment coming off 18-wheel trucks, Parker said.

The screened-in lounge area will face out into the woods around the pavilion.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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