Today, the gutted used furniture store next to the Mavs headquarters and Community Beer Co. looks pretty unassuming — but give it a few months. Mark Cuban and Live Nation are turning it into the Design District’s first major concert venue.
Inside, the new HiFi is meant to feel intimate. Its 1,000-person capacity groups its size with Canton Hall and the Granada Theater, but its stacked design presses you forward, closer to the stage. There will be an outdoor patio bar and lounge, designed to help this venue serve double duty as a pre-show and post-show hang. It’s very much in line with the strategy of other Live Nation-affiliated venues, like House of Blues: come for the band, stay for the burger.
Upstairs, the seating section extends out, close to the music, in a layout similar to House of Blues, but shrunk down to be more personal. You can tell that these 150 balcony seats, some stacked and tiered, others to be positioned as VIP booths, are going to have solid views — it’s a short, clear line of sight to the stage. Kind of like when you’re sitting upstairs at the Kessler.
When we walked into what will later be the VIP zone, called the Echo Lounge, you can see what originally drew Cuban to this property. The oversized windows perfectly frame your gaze at American Airlines, and downtown as a whole. This odd little patch of off-the-highway real estate is just a footpath away from every game night. And guess what? They’re building a footpath.
Ben Weeden, COO of Live Nation’s Clubs and Theater Division, says his team has been working with Cuban’s since the project started two years ago. Cuban contributed the land, and they’re building the venue with him. Together, they want to make the HiFi an “unofficial Mavs afterparty spot,” with “a potential content series, maybe with players, a speaker series – that kind of stuff.” He says that AA suite holders will unlock upgraded, luxury experiences.
And to make all that happen, they’ll have to help people navigate the short stretch of twisty, messy highway that divides them. “We’re working on a possible pedestrian path over here,” says Weeden. “We think that would be good, pre-game/post-game stuff.”
Weeden is doing a lot of press and ticks off the talking points. They chose Dallas because we’re the fifth largest population growth market, and because this venue fills a “sweet spot” for them, size wise. House of Blues, another nearby Live Nation venue, has a smaller 400 capacity room and a much larger 1,700 headcount space. But for bands that fall in between the two? They’re hoping they will skip the Granada and Canton in favor of the HiFi.
“Our division is really committed to growing these artists,” says Weeden, “kinda getting them over to the amphitheaters and the arenas. So, between 400 and 1,700, we needed that middle room.”
That 1,000-capacity artist size is an interesting group. It can be bands on their way up. Or bands who are trying to reconnect with music and fans, avoiding the big stadiums. Weeden thinks this club offers the vibe of a smaller room to both groups, but with an upgrade in sound quality. They’ve been working with Dolby to design a fully-immersive, “360-sound experience,” and are building the interior using special types of wood designed to curve, shape and pad all of that amplified sound.
“What we’re doing is named the HiFi,” says Weeden, “so we have to invest significantly in sound and lights, And it’s already not cheap, but we said ‘If we’re going to name it like this, we’re going to make it the best sounding in the country.’”
So which other music venues do they want to rival, acoustically? “Through osmosis, looking at places like the Bowery Ballroom in New York is one that comes to mind,” says Weeden, who then continues. “We’ve been doing a lot of this over the last ten years as we’ve been growing our portfolio, so making tweaks to it everywhere, depending on what the venue configuration is like. But a tight little venue like this with that type of sound system? It’s going to sound great.”
They’ll be announcing their first 15 to 20 shows soon; concerts are planned to begin on May 12.
But you have to wonder: Does Dallas have room for a third 1,000 capacity venue space? Live Nation has a partnership with Austin’s C3 booking company, so this would solidify their Austin-to-Dallas pipeline at every artist level. We asked Margin Walker, who currently handles a good chunk of those mid-sized bookings, if they thought HiFi would home in on their own sweet spot.
“I think we are good,” they said over chat. “Not the first new venue to open in Dallas. Won’t be the last.”