Ascend Amphitheater



Riverfront Renaissance in Nashville


Domingo Gonzalez Associates and Acclaim Lighting Create a Dramatic Lighting Scheme on the Shores of the Cumberland River


On the shores of the Cumberland River, West Riverfront Park, an 11-acre civic park, has quickly become a destination for active recreation and enjoyment for residents and visitors in Nashville. The design of the park was inspired by the limestone bluffs and edges of the Cumberland River. Portions of the park are perched above the Cumberland River and provide a spectacular view of river activity and the rolling hills.   The LEED Gold-certified Park includes over one mile of multi-use greenway trails, Nashville’s first downtown dog park, ornamental gardens, a 1.5-acre event lawn called the Green and the Ascend Amphitheater.


The amphitheater accommodates up to 6,500 people with semi-fixed seating for 2,200, a 300-person greenway pavilion, and 4,000 lawn seats – all within a natural bowl providing optimal lines of sight to the stage and downtown. The amphitheater bowl is supported by multiple buildings for restrooms, concessions, first aid and sound control for events.


The amphitheater walls are designed to appear like natural stone rising out of the landscape, similar to the limestone cliffs along the Cumberland River. The stone bases are augmented with steel panels and a flat roof with natural finishes.  The amphitheater and related facilities total 49,000 square feet. The amphitheater itself is 36,000 square feet on two floors and includes a stage that is 55-feet deep, 100-feet wide and 46-feet tall.  It is designed to accommodate multiple forms of performance events and musical genres, including country, rock and symphonies, as well as community events.


Accentuating the Environment

Domingo Gonzalez Associates (DGA) of New York City was asked to design the architectural lighting for the main amphitheater and ancillary park structures, as well as landscape lighting for the park at large. DGA selected architectural lighting products from Acclaim Lighting to highlight the unique form of the amphitheater and provide color-changing ability to allow it to become a dynamic beacon at night, especially during events.


DGA operates with a consensus building approach, offering clients thorough analysis, extensive design options and solutions that are both cost-effective and compliant with the industry's complex regulations.  Its noteworthy experience in lighting exterior environments has resulted in a broad portfolio of public infrastructure projects.  The company distinguishes itself in the industry through its impressive research capabilities; familiarity with working collaboratively with civic and community organizations; and its willingness to perform extensive on-site mockups to achieve the best possible solution for its clients.

After reviewing the West Riverfront Park environment and the project’s objectives for the lighting design, the DGA design team developed a lighting scheme to meet several objectives including:

·       Provide a safe and inviting experience at night for visitors

·       Accentuate the amphitheater form to become a glowing beacon in Nashville’s skyline and riverfront

·       Allow for flexibility in lighting controls for events and shows

·       Highlight selected and important architectural and landscape features in the Park


Colorful Collection

After an extensive investigation and product review, DGA selected Dyna Drum HO QW, DynaGraze Exterior HO DMX, Dyna Flood QA/QW from Acclaim Lighting.  Nancy Lok, Senior Associate at DGA, said, “We selected the products based on their reliability and the cost-effective range of LED RGB/RGBW accent, flood, wall-grazing products to complete the architectural lighting scheme.  Each of the products are IP66 rated for exterior wet environments.  All of these fixtures were specified as RGBW to allow for a dynamic range of colors and lighting effects that can be synchronized with an event.”

Dyna Drum HO QW fixtures were specified to highlight the outer shell of the amphitheater. Dyna Drum HO QW is an energy-efficient, high-powered, quad-color architectural lighting fixture with a wireless digital multiplex (DMX) control option.  It features 26 10-watt high-power, quad-color Cree MCE LEDs featuring red, green and blue colors with a 6000K white. With quad-color technology that mixes colors under the lens unlike traditional technology that color mixes outside of the lens, the Dyna Drum HO QW delivers more precise color matching, as well as improved aesthetics.  It has an adjustable yoke with an onboard 180-degree flip inverted digital control display for menu selections.


“For washing the inner stage walls of the amphitheater with light,” said Lok, “we specified Dyna Flood QA/QW, which is a high-powered quad-color LED flood unit typically used to precisely match colors in outdoor settings to illuminate facades, structures, landscapes and monuments.  The precise colors enable the entertainers to match the lighting with their music.”

Using Acclaim’s quad-color technology, the Dyna Flood QA contains four colors, red, green, blue plus amber (RGB+A), under a single lens, while the Dyna Flood QW has a RGB+white color recipe. Quad-color technology allows the Dyna Flood QA and QW deliver more precise color matching, as well as improved aesthetics where the fixture is visible. 

The Dyna Flood QW features brightness of 1,579 lumens at a 20-degree beam angle, while the Dyna Flood QA provides 1,233 lumens. Consuming only 60 watts, the long-lasting units are warranted for five years and retain 70 percent of lumens at 50,000 hours. Both the Dyna Flood QA and Dyna Flood QW offer beam angles of 20, 40 and 60 degrees. Each Dyna Flood model features an auto-switching, multi-voltage power supply and an on-board touch-sensitive menu.


Dyna Graze HO DMX fixtures uplight the ceiling trusses and backlight the “guitar amp”-inspired metal mesh to emphasize the structure’s iconic shape at night.  DynaGraze Exterior HO DMX features class-leading light output, adjustable feet, a glare shield and DMX and RDM control systems.  The unit includes a swivel mount option and beam angle options to fit a wide range of applications.  It is available in 1’ and 4’ sections to provide multiple configurations, including RGB, RGBW, RGBA and Dynamic White ranging from 2400K to 5500K.  It provides 650 lumens per foot and maintains 70 percent of its lumens at 150,000 hours.


“Being in Music City, it was very important for us to select the right combination of lighting products that provides precise lighting colors and control,” said Lok. “Nashville attracts all genres of music.  With a variety of entertainment performing under the lights of the amphitheater, each of the entertainers can create customized lighting schemes to match their shows.

Completed in July 2015, the West Riverfront Park has already been deemed a big success. The outdoor venue has offered people the opportunity to enjoy the many various performances. Thousands of residents and visitors have flocked to the park throughout the year to experience festivals, concerts, fireworks and other special events under the dramatic lighting scheme.

Sidebar: Festivals in the Park

Big things events have already happened at the historic riverfront location in just the first six months of the opening of the Ascend Amphitheater, with exciting future events to come.  Concerts under the lights in just the first six months after the amphitheater was completed included:

Eric Church

Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire

Counting Crows with Citizen Cope

Steely Dan and Elvis Costello

The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson

Idina Menzel

Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick

ZZ Top with Blackberry Smoke

Daryl Hall & John Oates