Promoter Sandy Ward-Poag including tributes to Prince among dynamic summer of superstar performances
ATLANTA – When you have large groups of people booking for your shows from all the way on other side of the North American continent, you are doing something right.
Just four years ago, Wolf Creek Amphitheater was an unknown jewel hiding in plain sight on Atlanta’s south side. Today, however, the energy coming out of that meteoric venue has generated its own powerful light that now shines across the state and the country.
That’s because leadership brought in a one-woman juggernaut named Sandy Ward-Poag, JD, with a passion for urban music and a native of the South Fulton County, and she has totally flipped the script on the order and hierarchy of great entertainment venues in the South.
The diverse musical menu that Ward-Poag has prepared for you this summer is as appetizing as a five-star exotic cuisine that’s designed to satisfy the palate of many music lovers across multiple genres.
Wolf Creek Amphitheater 2016 began with a “Night of Classic Soul” with singing sensation Stephanie Mills, Howard Hewitt and Jeffrey Osbourne. The gear shifts into fifth with the “Old School Hip Hop Festival” featuring Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Whodini, Rob Base and Juvenile, The atmosphere revs up even higher through with the end in September with the Wolf Creek Funk Series featuring old-school mega-bands Cameo, SOS Band, Klymaxx and Cherelle. And in between will be some of the most dynamic musical nights in the entire city as Ward-Poag pays tribute to the late, legendary Prince by bringing on the likes of Sheila E. and Morris Day and the Time and many others.
Today, Wolf Creek is the No. 1 urban outdoor concert venue in the city. And it began with the vision of one commissioner and a woman with the engine to power it into motion.
“I built the amphitheater from the ground up. And it was very unique opportunity. It was an unknown venue. It as the vision of one of the (Fulton County) commissioners, Bill Edwards. It started as a venue during the Olympics, and then the commissioner sought funding to build the amphitheater.”
When Ward-Poag, a 30-year veteran of the entertainment industry via TV, music and movies, was was hired there were only two concerts on the books. However, the Howard communications grad was able to generate six concerts for 2012, then 12 shows in 2013 and 17 in 2014. And in 2015 to 20 concerts and 15 of those concert sold out. This year, we will have over 20 concerts and I expect all those concerts to sell out. That is my prediction. Currently, the venue is the No. 1 urban entertainment venue in the city serving over 100,000 patrons in 2015.
The success of Wolf Creek Amphitheater can be traced back partially to an idea Ward-Poag came up with to give the venue some needed shine.
“I would say it was the “Old School Affordable Concert Series.” That’s how we started the Wolf Creek Amphitheater. I started to think about how can I get people here and to know Wolf Creek. I got together with a promoter and we put a list that comprised, and then we decided to package them with a comedian and a DJ for $25,” she said. “It was the South Fulton jewel that no one new about and that drove the patrons in. Tey came in droves. They love these old school artists. And it reignited many of the old school artists’ careers because they werent’ getting booked.”
That was just the beginning. Ward-Poag also ensured that the patrons experience would be an unforgettable one.
Today, not only are the major Atlanta radio stations jockeying for seating, some of the big mainstream promoters are now trying to poach from the fertile musical grounds that Ward-Poag and her team created.
Is extremely attractive because we offer a lot for your dollar concert ticket dollars. We offer free parking which is attractive for all patrons, and we offer free shuttle to all off-sight parking, which is rare. We offer 50 bathrooms for women. This may seem small for some women, this is a coup, there is no waiting in line. There are two attendants in every restroom all night long and make sure everything is clean and replenished all night long. Top notch. Customer service has been my mantra from day one.. I came in there and said ‘I want to make this a classic venue for South Fulton/Atlanta and I want to be upscale and I want to be top-notch customer service wise and I wanted them to have a good time and see a very beautiful venue and that’s been my mantra.”
Another major contributing factor was the endorsement by major artists for the venue and the experience, particularly glowing reviews from performer Keith Sweat.
“I must give a shout out to Keith Sweat, because he came out to our venue and saw the venue, and he said Sandy, I think this is a win-win for the South said to me ‘I want to help you brand this venue.’ He made guest appearances and just came onstage and performed for free. When they saw those appearances, the crowd dn’t know what they’re getting for their dollar. So I will always be endeared to him. He definitely helped brand Wolf Creek.”
The success of Wolf Creek has been such that big-names such as AEG and Live Nation have tried to poach her shows and artists, and Sweetwater in LeGrange, Ga., pretty much replicated their concert venue. Ward-Poag had to keep reinventing themselves, with skyboxes that have air-conditioning and catering to the LED screens that enable concertgoers sitting in the back to still see their artists in great detail.
With all of these combined amenities and luxuries that decorate a beautiful venue, Ward-Poag doesn’t call the Wolf Creek Amphitheater performances “concerts” anymore.
“I don’t just call them concerts. They are the largest outdoor parties in Atlanta. So the value of the ticket, you are going to get the artist, you are going to get the comedian, a DJ that keeps you on your feet during intermission. And I just love it. It energizes the entire staff to stay motivated to do something bigger and better to keep you on your feet.”