When a rock or pop star prepares to go on tour, the music for the concerts gets thoroughly rehearsed.
That’s obvious to fans.
But fans might not realize there’s another type of pre-tour rehearsal that’s equally important.
Painstaking practices are held for the lighting, scenery, video, staging and audio systems, too.
These so-called production rehearsals are separate from the practices held by the performers.
Up to eight weeks of production rehearsals are needed to get these complex systems running flawlessly and in sync.
Yet before the production rehearsals can begin, there’s another hurdle to clear.
That’s the challenge of finding a place to hold them.
For decades, the expensive, inconvenient, imperfect but common solution has been to find an arena with some open dates and rent it.
Soon there will be a new and more appealing option, though.
This month, on a farm near Route 501, construction began of an innovative facility named Rock Lititz Studio.
The studio is being built to fill a need in the concert-tour industry for affordable, accessible and available production-rehearsal space.
Costing more than $7 million to develop, according to industry sources, Rock Lititz Studio is set for completion in August.
Rock Lititz Studio will start as a 52,000-square-foot building, or roughly the size of a supermarket, except with a 100-foot-high roof.
Unique in the United States, the studio will be the centerpiece of a live-entertainment business campus, named simply Rock Lititz.
The campus will cost more than $100 million to develop, industry sources said.
At least 600 new jobs will be created by firms coming to the campus, according to a project official.
“We’re excited about what this means for our industry. We’re excited about creating something unique and different.
“But we’re also excited about what this means for our community,” said Andrea Shirk, program manager for Rock Lititz.
The Warwick Township campus is being developed by two Lititz-based leaders in the concert-tour industry.
They are Clair Global, the industry’s biggest sound company, and Tait Towers, the industry’s biggest staging company.
“The Rock Lititz partnership would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of our local legislators, members of the community and other stakeholders for being true advocates for this project,’’ said Troy Clair, president and chief executive officer of Clair Global.
“It’s a true testament to their understanding of how it will have a positive impact — locally, regionally and even internationally.”
For the campus site, Clair and Tait, as Rock Lititz Properties, bought a 96-acre farm on West Newport Road for $5 million.
Clair will have a new building on the campus, while retaining its current headquarters, next to Rock Lititz Studio.
Tait no longer has firm plans to put a building in Rock Lititz, having recently rented the former NTN plant on West Lincoln Avenue.
But Atomic Design, a third Lititz-based tour-industry firm, which provides scenery and lighting, intends to have a facility on the campus.
Unveiling of project
Plans for Rock Lititz surfaced in July 2012, when the developers asked the township to rezone the farm from agricultural to campus industrial.
General information about the project’s size and jobs was disclosed at subsequent public meetings for the rezoning and the project’s initial phase.
At that time, the developers predicted 1,003,700 square feet spread across 10 buildings, plus 500 new jobs.
Shirk last week confirmed the approximate amount of space to be developed at Rock Lititz will be a million square feet.
For perspective, that’s the size of five Walmart superstores.
The number of buildings at Rock Lititz will be determined by tenant needs, Shirk said.
Part of the campus could be devoted to shared services, she said. Possibilities are a cafeteria, fitness center, yoga studio and garden.
Quantity of buildings aside, the businesses coming to Rock Lititz will create more jobs than originally predicted.
600 new jobs
Now the expectation is at least 600 new jobs — a conservative estimate, according to Shirk.
“We are in active discussions with five or six potential tenants. And that’s before we’ve even made a push (to market the campus).
“These are folks who heard about it and called us,” Shirk said.
Shirk declined to disclose the cost of developing the studio or the campus.
Industry sources, though, pegged the studio cost at more than $7 million and the cost of the campus at more than $100 million.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the past year is the need for a production-rehearsal facility.
Europe has three; the United States none. That’s led to a great demand for such a facility in this country.
Finding an available arena, with a ceiling grid that’s high enough for a show’s rigging, is a perpetual challenge for a star’s production manager.
“We’re constantly getting phone calls: ‘Where is the closest place to you that we can rehearse?’ ” Shirk said.
“A lot of shows will rehearse in Reading or Hershey or Wilkes-Barre, just to be somewhat close. But that isn’t here.”
Production managers face the unpleasant task of picking their proverbial poison.
Details of their plight were spelled out in Rock Lititz’s application last spring for a state grant.
Arenas in major cities are the most costly, renting for up to $25,000 a day in New York City or Los Angeles.
Arenas in less populated areas are cheaper per day, perhaps as little as $2,500, but it can be more expensive to ship staging, sound equipment and scenery there.
Whichever option is selected, the production rehearsal will be in a different town than the tour’s main vendors.
That separation leads to a host of difficulties.
“When you have an issue, you don’t have access to your engineers. You have to reship equipment back and forth.
“You’re trying to resolve a technical problem by calling someone on the phone and explaining to them what’s happening,” Shirk said.
“It’s really inefficient.”
And that’s not the only source of inefficiency.
It can be nearly impossible to find an arena that’s available for an entire rehearsal period without interruption.
That means extra expense for temporarily moving out of the arena, while a hockey team or whatever uses the space, and then moving back in.
And production rehearsals can’t be cut short in today’s world, observed Shirk.
“You used to be able to work out the kinks on the road. You just go do your first four shows in the middle of nowhere.
“But now, anyone can YouTube anything anywhere. So your first show has to be as good as your last show,” Shirk said.
$5,000 a day
In the application for a state grant, Rock Lititz said it will charge $5,000 a day for the use of its studio.
On top of that daily fee would be unspecified service charges for supplying a crew, security or other extras, the developers said at that time.
However, Shirk said last week that the studio charges have yet to be finalized.
Rock Lititz Studio has been designed with its clients’ needs in mind, said Adam Davis, president of Tait Group, which includes Tait Towers.
“You’ll be able to hang 1 million pounds” of equipment from its ceiling structure, he said. “It can snow on top of it.”
Davis added, “There is nothing else on the planet that’s a free-span building with this height capacity and this load capacity.
“That’s why we’re building it ourselves.”
With the studio’s footprint and height (80 feet to the grid and 100 feet to the roof), Europe’s largest such facility would fit inside it, Davis noted.
Not only will the studio and campus be assets to stars and the concert-tour industry, Troy Clair said, they will be a boon to the local economy as well.
“Once completed, this site has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs, drive business for support vendors, and have a positive effect on every locally based industry, from hospitality to manufacturing,” he said.
In the state application, Clair, Tait and Atomic say it will lift their spending at machine shops, wood shops and other subcontractors far beyond 2012’s $17.9 million.
That’s not the only impact.
Other firms in the rock industry will move to the business campus to be close to the studio — and close to Clair, Tait and Atomic.
Providers of catering, security and labor also will benefit by serving the production rehearsals in the studio, the developers say.
Of course, these crews will need a place to eat and sleep — potentially triggering a need for a new hotel in the Lititz area, they say.
Clair, Tait and Atomic booked nearly 4,000 room-nights at local hotels in 2012, the application said.
That resulted in $1 million of local spending for rooms, meals, car rentals and the like.
Those are figures that are certain to rise when the studio opens, according to the developers.
Production rehearsals will last from two to eight weeks and involve 40 to 100 crew members, Shirk said.
(Production rehearsals will not involve musicians, nor will the studio host concerts for the public.)
So between rehearsals booked at the studio and internal growth by the three firms, the developers predict 12,000 more room-nights will be needed.
That will pump as much as $3 million more into the local economy.
Since Rock Lititz Studio is the focal point of the campus, it’s only logical that it will be the first building to be constructed.
It will provide amenities such as washers, dryers and a kitchen to make life for a band’s crew as easy as possible.
The studio also will create 24 jobs, the developers said in their application for the state grant.
Rock Lititz won that grant, worth $3 million, to help offset the cost of the studio, plus infrastructure for the campus, as was reported in December.
Discussions with potential users of the studio are underway, said Shirk.
Though the concert-tour industry is the focus of the studio, it might serve a wider clientele.
The studio also might be appealing to theater and movie productions, Shirk said.
Besides building the studio, initial work will include installing utilities and building most of the roads.
The initial wave of work also will include restoring the flood plain of the Santo Domingo Creek, which runs through the site.
Funding for this work, plus acquiring the land, is coming from lead bank Fulton Bank and participating lenders Susquehanna and National Penn banks.
The developers of Rock Lititz Studio are making sure it can handle the popularity they expect.
If the studio turns out to be as busy as its developers anticipate, an expansion will be possible.
The studio is being designed so that it can be enlarged to “just over double” in size, she said.
Later, Clair is looking to construct a building in the campus of 50,000 square feet or more, to accommodate its own growth, Shirk said.
Atomic is excited about constructing a building for itself at Rock Lititz, said Chloe Rich, marketing manager.
But Atomic has yet to decide how big the new facility will be, when it will be constructed or how it might impact Atomic’s two current locations in Lititz, she said.
Atomic owns a 45,000-square-foot building on Wynfield Drive (across the street from Tait) and leases a 55,000-square-foot building on Front Street.
The presence of the studio, plus new buildings for Clair and Atomic, will be a magnet for attracting other firms in the rock industry to the campus, according to the developers.
That’s already happening in a significant way to the broader Lititz, Manheim and Lancaster areas, the developers note.
The presence of Clair, Tait and Atomic has drawn a dozen firms in the live-entertainment industry to the county in recent years.
That trend is turning the Lititz area into even more of a hub for the live-entertainment industry, much as Hollywood is the hub for the movie industry, Shirk said.
The team behind the campus includes Pelger Engineering & Construction as construction manager, Derck & Edson as landscape architect, Beers & Hoffman as architect and Bottom Line Contracting as general trades contractor.