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Nikon at Jones Beach Theater ready to rock after $20M post-Sandy reconstruction

Over $20 Million in clean up and restoration

Over $20 Million in clean up and restoration was needed to rebuild Nikon At Jones Beach Theater after Superstorm Sandy hit the area. (May 30, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Nikon at Jones Beach Theater is set to rock again Friday night, ready to show off a $20 million reconstruction project that restored the concert venue after major damage from superstorm Sandy.

Officials from Live Nation Entertainment, which leases the theater from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, christened the renovated stage Thursday with a shower of beach balls and balloons.

"We had to be open for this entire 2013 season," said John Ahrens, Live Nation's senior vice president of real estate. "We felt it was important to the folks of Long Island and the entire region to show that we were back. . . . We couldn't let the community down."

Superstorm Sandy created a storm surge of nearly 10 feet in Zach's Bay that put almost all of the theater under 8 feet of water, Ahrens said. The venue's ground floor seating and nearly everything backstage and underground was submerged in nearly 3 million gallons of water.

The damage would normally have taken about a year to repair. However, Manhattan-based contractor Skanska was able to complete the work in six months by working double shifts and sometimes around the clock since the October storm.

Skanska project manager Carrie Wettstein, of Franklin Square, said her first reaction to seeing the theater after the storm was, "Oh, my God, where am I gonna start?"

The Jones Beach boardwalk was ripped away from its foundation and was floating in the parking lot. The concrete floor of the theater was blown out by the water surging through the drains. All the electricity was out.

Wettstein said the project -- paid for with insurance money and also including improvements to concessions, the VIP and backstage areas, and new padded seating -- was personal for her. "All my family comes here in the summer," she said, adding that a team of 250 workers, mostly from Nassau County, worked more than 100,000 hours to finish in time. "It means a lot."

Country group Rascal Flatts, who flew in from a benefit concert to aid tornado victims in Oklahoma Wednesday night to attend Thursday's unveiling, will headline Friday night's concert to celebrate the venue's reopening.

Guitarist Joe Don Rooney said the reconstruction was a testament to "the American spirit." "In times of crisis, it's amazing to see people roll up their sleeves, get on their knees and do what needs to happen," he said. "It's awesome to see this."

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