Pictured is a rendering of an aerial view of the renovated Pacific Amphitheatre at the Orange County Fairgrounds. The outer berm of the venue is being excavated and repurposed into a more parklike setting. The excavation is expected to end in late April. (Courtesy O.C. Fair and Event Center / February 8, 2013)

The first stage of Pacific Amphitheatre's renovation began this week, kicking off a process that officials say ultimately will make the Orange County Fairgrounds venue more intimate.

The nearly 3-acre outer berm section of the amphitheater, which crews began excavating Wednesday, is being rebuilt into a more park-like setting that will provide a festival-like space for vendors, and potentially will dissipate much of the noise that has been a long-standing complaint of neighborhoods adjacent to the 150-acre, state-run facility in Costa Mesa.

Nearly 50 trucks are handling the job. Officials said the trucks will take a noninvasive path that won't affect the nearby schools. They'll be traveling from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, straight from the fairgrounds to the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway using Fair Drive.

The changes will also lower PacAmp's capacity from 18,500 to 8,500. The seats inside, though, will not be affected, said Gary Hardesty, the fairgrounds' acting chief technology and production officer.

"It's not a berm removal," he said at an open-house meeting Thursday at the O.C. Fair & Event Center's administration building. "It's a berm enhancement, a berm modification, to allow us to be a more intimate setting, to allow us more of a sound modification."

"We're also creating an ingress/egress route that puts you back into the fair," Hardesty said. "So now, whereas before, the amphitheater was pretty much separate and disconnected from the fair, the amphitheater becomes more part of the fair, a much more enjoyable venue for everybody."

The second phase of the renovation is expected to begin in September, after the annual fair. That phase includes building a front lobby and plaza and adding landscaping.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint