So long tigers, hello horses. The longtime promoter of concerts at the Minnesota Zoo will temporarily move shows this summer to Canterbury Park in Shakopee because of the pandemic.
After canceling last year's Music in the Zoo because of COVID, Sue McLean & Associates (SMA) couldn't reach an agreement with Minnesota Zoo officials to stage concerts this year at the Weesner Family Amphitheater adjacent to the tiger exhibit.
"The zoo is just not prepared to entertain this," SMA chief executive Patricia McLean said Thursday after meeting with zoo officials. "Their energy is going toward rebuilding, with a safety-first initiative. There's new people there. This has been a trying year to try to work with them."
Instead of the usual 30-some zoo concerts, SMA will present a miniseries of eight to 12 shows at the Canterbury Park grandstand as well as three or four at Hilde Amphitheater in Plymouth. The concerts will be scheduled for August and September.
At Canterbury, a stage will be set up on the horse-racing track and concertgoers will sit in the grandstand. Capacity will be 1,700 — 200 more than the zoo could accommodate even pre-pandemic.
"Canterbury has COVID dialed in with capacity and compliance," said McLean. "We started negotiating with them last November. They're very welcoming.
"It's hard to replicate the experience and beautiful scene at the zoo but this is a really good option for us and our Music in the Zoo fans."
For concerts at the Hilde in Plymouth, COVID capacity will be 2,700 in a sprawling park that accommodates 10,000. At the city-owned band shell, SMA has previously staged concerts by Cheap Trick and Goo Goo Dolls.
An official announcement is expected in late May. McLean said the lineup will include many acts booked for the zoo last summer. "We had one of our best lineups ever," she said of the canceled 2020 slate.
SMA is one of the largest female-owned independent concert promoters in the country. Founded by the late Sue McLean — Patricia's aunt, who died in 2013 — SMA has booked concerts at the Minnesota Zoo for 28 years.
"We built quite a presence there," said McLean. "We sell 55,000 tickets a season at the zoo. We're carrying on and moving forward in a good way. That's not to say we wouldn't be back at the zoo next year."
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719