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Summerfest grounds get a refresh via upgraded Aurora Pavilion

Milwaukee World Festival

Stage makeovers are nothing new at Summerfest. If somehow you haven’t been to the Milwaukee music festival in the past, say, 20 years, the place would look pretty bizarre to you (outside of the Children’s Stage, perhaps).

On Thursday morning, Summerfest announced the latest location getting a rework: the newly christened Aurora Pavilion, which you may remember as the Johnson Controls Stage. That sponsorship ended rather suddenly this past summer, opening up a slot for another partner to step in.

Aurora Health Care did the honors, as Milwaukee World Festival (MWF) announced the expanded relationship to — as stated in the release — “provide greater access to the arts, amplify diverse voices through music performance and improve the health of Milwaukee-area residents.”

The splashy part of the news is most certainly the changes coming to the stage and viewing area. Among the upgrades being made with Aurora’s support are:

  • A wider entrance that will increase capacity
  • A new permanent video screen 
  • Improved accessibility for patrons with mobility limitations
  • Improved access in and around the venue, as well as to public restrooms 
  • New hospitality area and backstage artist production support area

The renderings of the revamped venue nicely illustrated what was noted in the release, most strikingly via an entryway that appears more open to the main thoroughfare through the festival grounds.

“Through this partnership with MWF and the creation of the new Aurora Pavilion, we are honored to expand services and programming to create a community ecosystem that fosters health, hope and healing for all,” Aurora Health Care president Gabrielle Finley-Hazle said in the release.

Community seems to be a major facet of the project, which will have a presence in Milwaukee outside the confines of Summerfest’s schedule. The venue will fill a role similar to that of the BMO Pavilion on the south end of the grounds, albeit a more locally focused one as “a gathering place for cultural programming, including free events and concerts.”

During the festival, expect a mix of local and national artists, as well as the return of last year’s Sound Waves approach featuring DJs and more of a dance-party feel.

“Expanding our relationship with Aurora Health Care, who has been the Exclusive Health Care partner of Summerfest since 2017, opens the door to a new chapter of community impact — a mission that has guided both organizations for decades,” MWF CEO Don Smiley said in the release. “This is a unique opportunity for us to join forces to bring a diverse set of artists and range of cultural experiences to Henry Maier Festival Park throughout the season and make the arts more accessible.”