In its 35th year, the Lincoln Amphitheater continues to celebrate Abraham Lincoln and the area’s legacy while making a name for itself as an outdoor venue featuring great performances from classic rock as well as contemporary artists.
Marc Steczyk, director of the Lincoln Amphitheater, is in its seventh season. When he came on board in 2016, he began exploring adding a new variety of acts in an effort to see what appealed to audiences the most.
The first show of that season drew 1,100 attendees, and three shows that year were sold out.
“It became very apparent as 2016 went on that it was classic rock,” says Steczyk, noting that they’ve locked that down going forward.
That first year was a process of discovery, and the discovery paid off.
He credits the success of the past few years to programming that people are passionate about and that is accessible. “We’re not Louisville or Evansville, we can’t charge those prices.” Steczyk added that a balanced season is really important to keep the amphitheater running.
With budget cuts year after year, Steczyk’s goal from year one was to keep the lights on and be able to pay the bills. Now, as he celebrates his 35th birthday, the revenue more than pays the bills. “We’re about $100,000 down from $1,000,000 in direct revenue since 2018 going back to the room (for updates), and if there’s one thing I’m really proud of, it’s that.”
Achieving this success has not been easy. “It’s a circle and you can’t get out of the circle,” Steczyk said of the preparation, the season and the playoffs. “It’s a grind and the grind is very real.”
There are three employees on non-show days. On show days, that number grows to around 25 and about eight volunteers — including Steczyk’s wife, children and mother.
The work does not stop with the season. Steczyk is taking a short break before diving into the data, planning for the next season and moving on to ticket sales.
All that hard work paid off. The 1,500-seat amphitheater frequently sees large crowds. Following this year-one trend, classic rock shows tend to sell out — and sell out fast. “Three days this year was the time tickets went on sale before our first show sold out,” Steczyk says.
And once a show sells out, it boosts the sales of other shows.
The 2022 season has five shows after the iconic production of Abraham Lincoln closed on Saturday night after a successful three-night run. Making a Home in Pigeon Creek: A Celebration of Lincoln Amphitheater Musicals featured music from two Lincoln musicals.
The amphitheater was built in 1987 to produce Young Abe Lincoln, a musical by Billy Ed Wheeler. The show was successful for many years. Then, in 2019, Here I grew up made its debut. Featuring 24 local artists and four members of the production team, the show, produced by the Lincoln Amphitheater and the Actors Community Theater, featured favorite songs from both musicals.
Now there are only ten shows left of the season. In July, customers have the opportunity to hear Ana Popovic, The Solitary Bellows, and Creedence Revived (Tribute to CCR) and with shows continuing through early October, there’s something for everyone.
“We work very hard to provide a quality experience for everyone,” says Steczyk.
This year promises to be one of the most important in the history of the amphitheater.
And Steczyk has his eyes on the future as he watches the continued success of this special place in the middle of the woods where Abraham Lincoln grew up.
“I think about things differently, you know. I’ve been here for a fifth of the amphitheater’s life – it feels really good. Really special,” he says.
And with the success of the past few years and revenue funneled back into the facility, Steczyk is looking to the future. With a master plan in place, he seeks the proper approval to expand the amphitheater. From a new, more welcoming entrance to more parking and more seating, the four-phase plan would take the amphitheater to the next level and open up the space to more performers who draw even larger crowds.
Phases one through three would focus on current gaps and issues while addressing existing buildings, upgrading them. Phase four would bring more seats to the space. With conversations starting, it’s not an easy road. From DNR approval, if all are purchased, it is up to the state for budget and approval. “That would be a pretty remarkable improvement to the facility,” Steczyk notes.
With potential growth in mind, what does the future look like for Steczyk?
“I think the 70th anniversary will look back fondly on the 35th anniversary of this place as a turning point,” he explains.
For more information on upcoming shows or to purchase tickets, visit www.lincolnamphitheatre.com