Rock Lititz brings stars like Justin Bieber and Beyonce to Lancaster County

LITITZ — Near the cornfields, between barns and church steeples in Lancaster County, Justin Bieber ordered a bacon, egg and cheese croissant from a local restaurant.

Arianna Grande also went to Target, Whole Foods. Katy Perry became a tourist and took a road trip to Hershey Park.

Lancaster County is a posh place, Pennsylvania’s breadbasket, home to Amish and antique shops and many farms. This is a great day trip for Philadelphians. And a growing number of famous performing artists are spending up to two weeks there, rehearsing for huge shows in arenas and stadiums that could bring in nine-figure profits.

Welcome to Rock Lititz, one of the most unique companies in Pennsylvania and the country.

“It was a great example of ‘If you build it, they will come,'” said Andre Shirk, CEO of Roche Lititz.

The 96-acre campus consists of a 30,000 square foot rehearsal studio with 100 foot ceilings to replicate the scope of arena tours. It was the largest dedicated rehearsal space in the world when it opened in 2014. A second, slightly smaller Studio 2 debuted on April 1. There are also a multitude of companies and associated equipment, in collective workplaces called pods. Almost all of them are dedicated to music in one way or another.

On a recent weekday, men wearing harnesses hung from what appeared to be large gymnasiums in the jungle, riggers practicing techniques and rescues they might have to apply in concert halls .

“It’s kind of like an open gymnasium today,” said Brian Leister, senior technical coach at Columbus McKinnon.

But there are also game developers, a bike shop and medical offices.

If an artist needs a spinning stage, fireballs bursting behind the drummer, or a digital backdrop of swirling fractals, someone at Rock Lititz can do it. But really any company that needs a show can find one there.

“You’ll hear us refer to this as an ‘entertainment campus.’ Concert tours are certainly the roots, and I would always say that half of what we do is concert tours, but the other half of what we do is theme park installations like Disney, Universal, cruise ships,” Shirk said. “Companies have worked on the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia.”

In the hip hotel that opened on campus in 2018, entertainers can play shuffleboard in the lobby or soak in the deep soaking tubs upstairs in what must be the fanciest penthouse suites ever. Pittsburgh and Philly.

“The dancers are really enjoying the tub,” said Kim Levenson, director of sales and marketing for the Rock Lititz Hotel.

While the folks at Rock Lititz have a policy of not discussing artists who rent their spaces — unless the artist has already done so — they also don’t make it a point to house them. There are no security checkpoints, no gates, and many businesses are open to the public. For example, it would be possible to meet Bruno Mars or Adam Levine at the Lititz recROC, the climbing gym.

“We are professionals and are always thinking about what might happen, but the restaurant is public, the hotel and the bar are public,” Shirk said. “The public is very respectful.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, just before the summer of 2020, most major venues canceled or postponed concerts. Some early estimates of the pandemic indicated the concert industry would lose $30 billion. These concert cancellations have impacted Rock Lititz, but some live performances were filmed there, including a performance by pop trio AJR, in 2020, and a 2021 New Year’s Eve show by iconic jam band Phish.

Concert revenue bounced back in 2021. Now, with the easing of COVID restrictions around the world, both Rock Lititz studios are close to capacity for the rest of the year.

“The numbers I’m hearing are the industry expecting a 100% to 125% increase,” Shirk said.

While the campus sits on Warwick Township land, the small borough of Lititz sits in it like a donut hole. Timothy Snyder, Mayor of Lititz, said Rock Lititz is a win-win for the entire area, having built an on-campus community for the public, along with baseball diamonds and walking trails. Nearly 1,500 inhabitants work there.

“Lititz is a bustling town and they’re a great addition,” Snyder said. “They are perfect for this area.”

Snyder said Lady Gaga was seen at the Bulls Head Public House, at Lititz’s famous neighborhood pubbut the media say a boyfriend is what drew her to Lancaster.

“I’m probably dating myself, but I probably wouldn’t know most of these celebs,” Snyder said. “It would be pretty cool to see Billy Joel though.”

It turns out that Joel hung out in Lititz, back in 1979. Roy Clair, one of the founding fathers of Rock Lititz, explained why the superstar was rehearsing in a small town that was then known for its chocolate and pretzels.

“There aren’t the distractions of a New York or a Hollywood in Lancaster County,” Clair told a reporter in 1979. of their work.”

In the decades that followed, the audio business the Clair Brothers started in their garage, along with other music- and touring-related businesses, converged on Rock Lititz. Roy and Gene Clair first provided sound equipment to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in 1966, when the band played at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

As the Clair Brothers made concerts more professional, the shows evolved into the digital age as singles and streaming replaced analog media. Concert tours, Shirk said, have gone from something artists did to support their albums to their biggest source of income.

Shows have gotten bigger, special effects and lighting more intricate, and soft openings to iron out issues in Omaha or Des Moines are no longer enough when every ticket holder has a cell phone. Almost all of the highest-grossing tours of all time have taken place in the past 20 years.

“It really raised the bar for what they had to do on tour,” said. “And that’s why we’re here.”

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