For the past several months I have revealed the many reasons that New Braunfels has such a thriving music scene. It all started back in the ’70s with the legendary old dancehalls that were joined in later years by other area venues that opened and featured live music. But one thing was still missing from our city, a large outdoor venue that could hold several thousand fans and bring major touring groups to town. This need was filled in 2005 when local businessman and music fan Will Korioth purchased the property on the banks of the Guadalupe River in Canyon Lake.
“I had developed the Hideout on the Horseshoe,” explains Will, “which were rental cabins on FM 2673. The owners of the tubing business that was located next to the river approached me about possibly purchasing the land and business. I thought it was about 40 acres but when I looked at the property, I learned it was 460 acres.”
Will purchased the property in 2006 and immediately started designing a live music amphitheater. An avid concert goer, he knew what he liked about other venues and what he didn’t like.
“At that point, I had a case of delusional optimism,” he laughingly said. “It didn’t make sense at the time to buy all this property, then build a concert venue, but that’s what we did. Whitewater was the largest tubing outfitter on that part of the river, so I thought, let’s build the largest music venue in the county, too.”
At the beginning Will had a partner but in 2015 he bought him out and became the majority owner. Whitewater Amphitheater opened its doors and hosted their first major concert in 2007. With a seating capacity of 5,600, they were able to attract acts that were too big to play the local dancehalls and bars.
The first few years were tough because they were a new venue and didn’t have a history with artists and booking agents. They continued to push forward, adding acts to their resume, and collecting names for their email list, that today includes over 100,000 people. Before long, their popularity in the music industry grew and artists were asking to play there.
“The artists love playing here,” Will explained. “They love our backstage area and they want to tube the river. Sheryl Crow was planning on two shows in Texas this year and one was going to be here.”
Things just kept getting bigger every year with acts like Ryan Bingham, Gary Allen, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, ZZ Top, Billy Currington and Miranda Lambert making annual stops here. By 2011, the calendar included Ghostland Observatory, The Toadies, Bob Dylan, and Joe Walsh. In a nod to the venue’s popularity, Dylan played his only Texas date that year at Whitewater.
Disaster struck in 2016 when a flooded Guadalupe River damaged the stage and hospitality area. When they rebuilt everything, they made it bigger and better.
“After the flood, we increased the stage size which allowed for bigger productions,” he explained. “Bigger shows come with more expensive production costs. For example, the last Miranda Lambert show in 2017 had a $70,000 production cost, which doesn’t include the artist fee. Having the bigger stage and production capabilities helped us get Neil Young’s show here in 2016. According to Pollstar Magazine, we are in the Top 50 venues worldwide. Music critic Michael Corcoran calls Whitewater the ‘Red Rocks of Texas.’ Artists always tell us we are their favorite place in America to play.”
In addition to being a world class outdoor venue, Whitewater is also good for the local economy. Research shows that less than 2% of tickets sold come from Canyon Lake, less than 7% come from New Braunfels so that means 90% of the crowd comes from out of town. They come to eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels. A full season of shows at Whitewater can pump as much as $20 million into our local economy which averages out to about $100 million every five years. Like all venues, the current pandemic has hurt this season, but they are using the downtime to continue making improvements. Though our local, smaller venues are historic, once Whitewater Amphitheater opened, it introduced New Braunfels to not just America but to the world.