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New roof at Soo Pass stage could help attract top names

The installation of the new roof at Soo Pass Ranch was close to completion Friday. WE Fest President and CEO Jeff Krueger said the roof should help the site attract bigger acts. (Jason Adkins/DL Newspapers)1 / 2
A worker helps complete the installation of the new roof covering the stage at Soo Pass Ranch. (Jason Adkins/DL Newspapers)2 / 2

As WE Fest and the 10,000 Lakes festivals keep growing, the Soo Pass Ranch is investing in infrastructure improvements to keep up with bigger and bigger acts.

For this year's festivals, the most noticeable change will be right in front -- a new roof that will cover the stage or deck, said WE Fest President and CEO Jeff Krueger.

Krueger said that the new roof, one of the largest touring roofs in the U.S., could handle gear for two large acts at a time.

"It can handle Tim McGraw or U2," Krueger said. "Or Kenny Chesney and Bruce Springsteen."

To handle those shows, the roof and its supports can handle 150,000 pounds of weight. Krueger said that the old roof was past its prime as it was 13 years old and couldn't support much.

The new roof was installed this week during a five-day job at Soo Pass Ranch.

Five days could be considered a long time to set up a roof, but it could be put up faster if necessary, said Mike Pinner, the manufacturer and seller of the stage.

Pinner said that it could be done in three to four days. He's glad, though, he had the time to spread out the set-up process.

"If we had production crews coming in tomorrow, I would be up there yelling at the guys," Pinner said.

The set-up of the roof is a marvel in modern engineering. While it requires a crane and old-fashioned manpower, lifting the roof itself is easier than one would think.

Twenty-four motors attach to permanent supports that are anchored several feet into the ground to lift the roof. The motors then are removed after the roof is in place.

Reaching 76 feet into the sky, Krueger said that the new roof is taller than the towers on the sides of the stage, which rise to 66 feet.

The entire roof itself is 144 feet by 68 feet, compared to the old roof that was 80 feet by 80 feet.

With the roof fitting over the existing stage, Krueger said it's a perfect match as the whole stage is now covered.

Pinner said it's one of the largest roofs that many acts will see that don't travel with their own stage.

It also provides protection from the elements. Vinyl drapes hang on three sides of the stage to keep out most water, even during torrential rainstorms.

"Steve Winwood played in a downpour and it didn't faze him," Pinner said of the roof.

He added that it helps withstand wind.

"It isn't pretty, but it's tough," Pinner said.

The stage itself is not permanent, but will be dismantled sometime after WE Fest in August and put into storage until next year.

However, the new roof can help attract more acts for dates other than the two festivals, Krueger said.

He said that Soo Pass Ranch could host something as big as the Elton John-Billy Joel show that stopped off at the Fargodome, for instance.

The roof itself is not new. It housed the Phish tour several years back for a two-year run and was at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee for a couple of years as well.

Many acts have played under it, including Dave Matthews and Primus, Pinner said.

Having a big roof will be cost-effective in the end, Krueger said, because it could cost up to $100,000 to rent a roof of a similar size for one show.

"We didn't want to get a roof every time we want to do a show," Krueger said.

The stage itself will undergo a bit of a makeover, as 200 VIP seats above the crowd will be put on sale shortly, Krueger said.

The new roof will get its first tryout July 22-25 when the 10,000 Lakes Music Festival opens up. WE Fest is just a few weeks later on Aug. 6-8.