As Starland Ballroom Re-Opens, a Star is Re-Born

The Starland Ballroom has been shuttered for 10 months to repair damages from Hurricane Sandy. This month, the renovated venue finally reopens.

The Starland Ballroom surrounded by water after Hurricane Sandy.
Courtesy of Starland Ballroom

Since it opened in December 2003, the Starland Ballroom has sold more than 1.5 million tickets—more than any other concert nightclub in New Jersey, its management claims. But for the past 10 months, the Sayreville landmark has stood empty, a victim of Hurricane Sandy. This month the renovated Starland finally reopens.

Six feet of water from the South and Raritan rivers swamped the venue during Sandy, destroying its electrical system and damaging walls, flooring and plumbing. “No portion of the building was spared,” says Colin Conway, general manager of Starland and vice president of the promotion company AEG Live, which has owned Starland since 2007 and whose Jersey office is located at the venue. After the storm, AEG Live canceled or moved more than 40 Starland shows.

Following the storm, the building was completely gutted, allowing for some major improvements. Two walls were partially reconfigured to improve crowd flow and sight lines; the dressing rooms were updated; and a new state-of-the-art lighting and sound system was added—all while preserving the venue’s cherished intimacy. Maximum capacity remains at 2,500.

The renovations included structural changes to mitigate future storm damage and downtime. Electrical, telecommunications and fire/burglar alarm systems were raised; wood flooring was replaced with polished cement; and walls were braced with galvanized steel studs and water-resistant foam insulation. Outside, a new drainage system was installed.

“There aren’t many silver linings in Sandy,” says Jon Vena, Starland’s marketing manager, who has been with the venue from the beginning. “But we made it into an opportunity to modernize and improve. When people come in, they’re going to feel like they’re in Starland, but a shiny, new Starland. We can’t wait to see customers back in here raising their fists.”

Vena hopes the reopening will have a positive economic impact on Sayreville, a community still struggling to recover from Sandy. “To see New Jersey come together and work together to fight back,” he says, “that’s what’s compelling us to come back.”

The Stone Temple Pilots—with Point Pleasant-raised brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo on guitar and bass, respectively—headline the September 6 reopening. Other scheduled shows reflect Starland’s customary mix of genres, including country roughneck Billy Currington (September 7), pop-punk act Taking Back Sunday (September 11-12) and Jersey ska favorites Streetlight Manifesto (November 15-16). For more information, visit starlandballroom.com.

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