A grand opening gala was held on July 14, 1967, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey attended a presentation of "Columbia: Broadsides for Orchestra" in a driving rainstorm that flooded the orchestra to its knees. The Orchestra went bankrupt the next year. In the 1968 season, controversial presidential candidate George Wallace held a 7500-person rally on June 27, 1968, followed shortly after by candidate Eugene McCarthy.
On May 25, 1969, The Who and Led Zeppelin shared a stage for the first and only time, playing to a crowd of 20,000. Led Zeppelin performed "Whole Lotta Love" live for just the second time ever, and allegedly ran long in their opening slot, resulting in their plug being pulled by The Who's production crew.
Before the start of the 1970 season, loge sections were built (adding 1,800 seats) in order to book a seven night run of Tom Jones, featuring Gladys Knight & the Pips as the opening act.
In 2003, development by General Growth Properties threatened to shutter the pavilion, drawing the ire of local Columbia teens, along with former bandmates Ian Kennedy and Justin Carlson, who launched and sustained a grassroots "Save Merriweather" campaign to keep the concert venue open. As part of the fight, Kennedy vowed not to shave his beard until the future of Merriweather was secure.
As "Save Merriweather" began to pick up steam, General Growth Properties offered to sell Merriweather to Howard County on condition that the pavilion be converted into a much smaller, enclosed theater. Shortly thereafter, 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz's I.M.P. was chosen as Merriweather's new promoter amidst the claim by GGP's General Manager that trying to make Merriweather Post Pavilion profitable was like "trying to sell ice cubes in the middle of winter."
In 2005, Howard County held a charrette to discuss redevelopment of the Rouse Planned community beyond its initial 100,000 population design. In 2010, The Downtown Columbia Plan passed, requiring the developer, General Growth Properties (now the Howard Hughes Corporation), to renovate Merriweather before additional development could occur in Columbia. In 2014, County Executive Ken Ulman proposed a bill to relieve Howard Hughes of the renovation expense including a $10 million grant. The final plan which only granted $9.5 million to the developer was announced at a Jack Johnson concert on June 5, 2014, removing a major development restriction.
Jim James performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion on August 12, 2011
In 2013, former Rouse employee Michael McCall proposed county executive-backed plans to convert the wooded land called Symphony Woods surrounding the pavilion. McCall's company, Strategic Leisure, first proposed a $50 million publicly funded six-story parking garage at the Toby's Dinner Theatre location; later proposals included a 39-acre arts park with features such as an outdoor amphitheater called the Chrysalis, a 300-foot-long floating picnic table, and an 800-foot-long tube called the Caterpillar. The new project was named the "Inner Arbor", a spin on another Rouse development, Baltimore's "Inner Harbor". Artist William Cochran, son of former County Executive Edward L. Cochran, and brother of Councilwoman Courtney Watson, was commissioned for artwork that includes horns up to 28 feet tall.
The majority of the wooded and open field land surrounding Symphony Woods and Merriweather served as a park, festival site, event parking, and site of yearly Symphony of Lights Christmas light displays. As part of the redevelopment initiative, the owner Howard Hughes Corp rezoned the land for a project called the "Crescent", which would relocate the Banneker fire department, redevelop the area into 2,100 homes and 1,125,000 square feet of general and medical office space, in 20-story-high buildings. The Crescent project gets its name from the shape of the work area surrounding the pavilion, as well as Rouse's (Howard Hughes') partnership with Crescent Real Estate Equities on its Woodlands development.
In August 2014, the site made national news when 2 patrons died and 20 others were hospitalized from drug overdoses after a Mad Decent concert. Venues across the country implemented stricter drug enforcement controls after the incident.
Merriweather Post draws a regional traffic base with 90% of concert attendees travelling from outside of Howard County.
In 2015, the Howard County Planning Board approved a submission by Brian Spencer, a registered lobbyist and project manager by Howard Hughes. The $8.4 million design by Jamie Pett (JP2 architects) includes renovation with new concession stands around the 9:32 club and replacement of the condemned restrooms.
On November 30, 2016 The Howard Hughes Corporation transferred ownership of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Symphony Woods to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, a nonprofit organization helmed by "Save Merriweather" co-founder Ian Kennedy. At the official ceremony, Kennedy shaved the beard he had been growing for 13 years, since the beginning of the campaign in 2003.
2017 marked Merriweather Post Pavilion's 50th season, celebrated in part by I.M.P.'s signing of a new 40-Year lease to continue operating Merriweather through 2057. The celebration continued with the completion of $55 Million of renovations creating 15,000 square feet of dressing rooms and backstage areas including a swimming pool and dining room. The renovations also include the expansion of the stage house in preparation for raising the pavilion's famed roof, the installation of a turntable inset in the stage, and new bathrooms and concessions for patrons, as well as a new VIP rooftop bar.
Early in the morning on January 13, 2018, the roof overhanging the reserved seating at the venue suffered a total failure and collapsed. It was in the final stages of a five-month project to raise the structure by 20 feet to improve sight lines for patrons on the lawn. Management quickly issued a statement indicating that the roof would be replaced, and that the venue would open as scheduled for its 2018 concert season.
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