(Aerial photos by Neil-Shaffer)
One might think of the movie Field of Dreams when they hear the story about the beginnings of the Brandon Amphitheater. Ray Kinsella, portrayed by actor Kevin Costner, hears a voice from his cornfield repeatedly saying, “Build it, and they will come.”
For the City of Brandon’s Mayor, Butch Lee, and the board of aldermen, there wasn’t a definite command but a question: if the city builds an amphitheater, will the people come? Not only to attend concert events but also to enjoy everything this unique town offers the residents and visitors.
Now, after five years of operation, the answer is clear. It is a resounding yes!
Let’s look at the history of how the amphitheater became the premier venue it is today and what the future has in store.
Why the city of Brandon?
Brandon is consistently ranked among the top ten best and safest places to live in Mississippi. This year Brandon celebrates her 19th birthday. The town has grown from 31 residents in 1928 to over 28,000 today. Then, add the population in a ten-mile radius. An additional 80,000 to 90,000 individuals are potentially visiting the town to shop, eat, engage in youth sporting events, visit parks, and attend concerts.
Additionally, the City of Brandon is one of the fastest-growing cities in our state and serves as the Rankin County seat. There is easy access to the town because of its location near Highway 80 and Interstate I-20 and it is only minutes away from the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.
So, the question is not “Why Brandon?” but “Why not Brandon?” The town holds potential and opportunities. Furthermore, the city’s leadership demonstrates a commitment to improving the infrastructure and meeting the needs of the citizens. Mayor Lee says, “Government at the local level is where the rubber meets the road.”
Planning and Research Comes Before Construction
Around ten years ago, the town’s board and Mayor Lee took the idea of an amphitheater in Brandon under consideration and began the research. The idea was sparked by the economic growth they saw with Snowden Grove Park in Southaven, Mississippi, home of the BankPlus Amphitheater and a baseball complex.
They visited ten or twelve sites in the following months, including Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Vidalia, Louisiana; Germantown and Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Oxford and Meridian, Mississippi. Their research gave them insights into the architecture, the viability of natural settings for a location, costs, and the economic impact on the community.
In 2014, architect Jamie Wier told them about an architect who was involved with the Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Pelham, Alabama. They contacted him and later were introduced to Gary Weinberger, a partner of Red Mountain Entertainment.
He suggested they visit The Wharf, a 9,900-capacity amphitheater in Orange Beach, Alabama, and the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, an 8,400-seating capacity. That complex caught their attention.
It had what they were looking for, from reserved seating, clean restrooms, a place for the artists and their crews, plentiful parking, the necessary components for technology, and more. It was time for action.
Ground-Breaking and Funding
The City of Brandon hired Jamie Wier with Wier Boerner Allin Architecture. A press conference was held on Tuesday, August 16, 2016, at the Brandon Municipal Complex, followed by a groundbreaking ceremony at The Quarry, a 250-acre plot of land off Boyce Thompson Drive. It was time to build.
What about the funding? Around 2013, the Brandon residents voted and passed a two-percent food and beverage tax. It had a two-fold purpose; it would be used only to improve the current parks and amenities and develop the tourism economy. The amphitheater project cost was initially estimated to be $28 million. However, by the city doing much of the initial ground preparation, the cost decreased to approximately $20 million.
Another unique tidbit about this facility is that it is owned and operated by the City of Brandon, not outside investors, earning revenue for the town.
The Grand Opening
After 18 months of construction, the Grand Opening occurred on April 18, 2018. The amphitheater has reserved and preferred seating and box seats. It offers handicap-accessible venues, family facilities, concession stands, and merchandise booths.
The first concert featured country music artist Chris Young. The show sold out within 45 minutes, with over 7,000 tickets sold. If you build it, they will come!
The Brandon Amphitheater held 19 concerts in 2019. Events were scheduled for 2020 until COVID caused the doors to close. Slowly, the concerts were reopened in 2021 and regained momentum in 2022.
Today and Beyond
This year, there are at least 14 concerts on the calendar. Renowned artists like James Taylor, The Doobie Brothers, 3 Doors Down, Willie Nelson and the Family are among the headliners. Tickets for remaining concerts are on sale now. Additionally, groups such as religious organizations and school events use the amphitheater.
Soon, the City of Brandon will host an Independence Day Celebration. The free community event will have a children’s bike parade, space jump, car show, food trucks, and fireworks in the evening. Plans are underway for a Fall Festival and a Christmas Parade. The Magic of Lights show was a huge success last year and is scheduled this year from Thanksgiving to the end of December.
Adjacent to the Brandon Amphitheater is The Rankin Trails at the Quarry. Sweat equity by volunteers has made most of the work possible. Several sections still need to be completed. Hopefully, volunteers will rise to the task and donate time and labor in the following months. The six Quarry Baseball Fields are integral to the complex and provide an excellent spot for youth and adults.
The best recommendation for the Brandon Amphitheater comes from the workers and attendees. The following is a sampling:
My husband and I are employed with a company that provides security, ushers, bag checkers, and ticket scanners. We have received so many compliments about the facility and how helpful the staff is. The attendees are from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. Also, the artists are very complimentary of the staff and facilities. We strive for every person to be safe and have a great experience.– Gale and Jeff, Brandon
I enjoyed the concerts there. The weather is always a consideration, as with any outdoor venue, but my experiences there have consistently been good. It’s clean, safe and the parking is adequate. There is easy access to seating, concessions, and restrooms. The stage setup, views, and the sound is nice. Prices are comparable or less in comparison to larger venues. It’s a great addition to the Jackson/Brandon area for concertgoers.– Heather, Kosciusko
Looking back, the people have come. The Brandon Amphitheater has been a tremendous asset to the community, the economy, and tourism. Mayor Lee will tell you this project’s foundation, construction, and operation have been built by prayer and discernment. Plans are being considered for new additions. For example, the overseers are considering an upper tier of box seats.
The Brandon Amphitheater has provided a cultural hub providing live music from different genres. After all, “music does make the world go round.” Therefore, the people will continue to come!
Visit the event ticket center regarding upcoming events and shows and connect through Facebook. Brandon also hosts live events at the City Hall.