A crowning jewel of the 1984 Louisiana World Fair, the Frank Gehry-designed riverfront amphitheater served as the main entertainment stage for the big names that performed during the Fair.
Sponsored by the Official Cigarette of the Fair, the Liggett and Myers Quality Seal Amphitheatre was 12 stories tall with a 90-foot proscenium, sat more than 5,400 people, and overlooked the Mississippi River, with the water and passing boats providing a backdrop for internationally acclaimed stars of music, sports, theater and more.
While prize-winning architect Gehry was responsible for the original design, his complete vision was not carried through. The top of the covered amphitheater was originally designed with a roof of iridescent multicolored glass panels shaped like fish scales to complement the steel construction and blues and greys of the seats and stage. However, the roof design added $2.3 million to the project and was deemed too costly, so fair officials replaced it with a corrugated metal roof. Gehry reportedly refused to comment on the amphitheater after the change was made.
The amphitheater was always intended to be a temporary structure, on land leased from the Port of New Orleans Dock Board. But as the Fair came to an end, city officials and developers started a conversation about keeping the amphitheater, citing its beauty and usefulness as a way to revitalize the riverfront. Unfortunately, it came down to issues of public safety and loss of use; a public amphitheater would render a number of the surrounding wharves inoperable.
There was discussion of moving the amphitheater to Jefferson Parish, but the cost would be too high to warrant the dismantling, relocating and rebuilding of the structure. The amphitheater was demolished as planned in December 1984.
Note: This is Part 10 of a yearlong focus on the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair.
Musicians performing at the Liggett & Myers Quality Seal Amphitheatre included: Air Supply, James Taylor, Cheap Trick, Jimmy Buffett, Patti LaBelle, Neil Young, The Go-Gos, Linda Rondstadt, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Captain and Tennille, INXS, Kris Kristofferson and many, many more. Other standout entertainment included sports (specifically boxing and gymnastics), comedy (including George Burns and Red Skelton), Alvin Ailey Dance, the Vienna Boys Choir, the London Philharmonic and the Boston Pops. Bert Parks served as the official host of the amphitheater.