Once upon a time, anybody who was somebody flocked to the Limelight in Buckhead, or the old Omni in downtown Atlanta.
A generation ago, for coming of age Baby Boomers, the Limelight was the place to see and be seen, and the Omni was Atlanta’s only major concert venue.
The Limelight was the South’s Studio 54.
But that was another lifetime ago and Boomers have come of age and gone, approaching retirement age, and the Limelight is but a ghost… a memory. The Omni is gone and around Atlanta several other major concert venues have sprouted like dandelions.
Atlanta’s club scene, also, has expanded beyond Peachtree Street in Midtown and Buckhead to the suburbs and points of the compass beyond I-285.
Today, in Gwinnett County, the place to see and be seen is The Bowl at Sugar Hill.
The Bowl at Sugar Hill, voted Gwinnett County’s top concert venue, is the City’s signature amphitheater, which serves as the downtown centerpiece, seating approximately 1,750 people – all chairs, with tables for a picnic dinner if patrons so desire, and suites at the top of The Bowl complete with tables and chairs, to watch a lineup of acts people want to see. The venue has hosted the likes of Boz Scaggs, Collective Soul, and in July, KC and the Sunshine Band since opening in 2014. Ben Folds and Atlanta Rhythm Section are slated to perform in September and November.
Mayor Steve Edwards wanted to provide a place for people to come see a good show for an affordable price.
“There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and it’s a great ticket. This venue is top notch, being compared to Greenville’s. The shows are good shows. That says a lot about what we’re doing here.”
City Manager Paul Radford said, The Bowl helped make Sugar Hill a place for people to come and enjoy a good show, some wine, and a picnic dinner without having to fork out an arm and a leg, or drive all the way into Atlanta.
“You can bring your picnic baskets and coolers and enjoy a drink and dinner, if you’d like. We sell tables. You can bring in your own alcohol and food, and we also sell alcohol and food here to enjoy the concert. We want to make Sugar Hill a downtown destination.”
The Bowl, a $3 million-dollar investment in Sugar Hill’s downtown revitalization project’s phase, followed the city’s $13 million city hall, which opened in 2013, and awaits the $36 million E Center to open in June 2018. The Bowl is the centerpiece of an ambitious $250 million plan when all is said and done will fill 16 acres of land nestled into the corner of Peachtree Industrial Road and State Road 20 with mixed-use residential and retail developments to include restaurants, shops and housing that should be complete by 2020.
All surrounding The Bowl.
“Other similarly sized venues closer to downtown Atlanta charge almost twice as much as what we do,” Radford said. “We have found our niche and we are able to bring on some nice acts. Our goal is to break even.”
July’s headlining act, KC and the Sunshine Band, was a sold-out show. The standing room only crowd braved the threat of rain and summer heat. Whether their first time or their fourth, Sugar Hill’s Bowl was a breath of fresh air.
“What a wonderful venue,” said Barbara Clark of Flowery Branch of her first trip down McEver Road to Sugar Hill. “I’m an Atlanta native and it used to be, if you wanted entertainment of any kind, you had to drive to Atlanta. It is so refreshing to have a beautiful place such as this, just a short drive away, where you can come and enjoy an evening out.”
Other music fans echoed praises for Sugar Hill’s signature entertainment venue, and didn’t mind the construction.
“What a great place to see a great show,” said David Tanek, who had traveled from Franklin, NC to catch the show. “They say they want this to be a destination spot? It is. This is a blast.”
“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” said Jill Martz of Atlanta, “I grew up with KC and the Sunshine Band. This brings out all the young people in us, makes us want to get up and dance.”