'Dancing with the Stars' The MULTI-MILLION Dollar Makeover

8/22/2011 4:30 AM PDT


"Dancing with the Stars" is getting a MASSIVE upgrade this season -- and TMZ has learned ... the entire layout of the set will be changed ... to the tune of $3 MILLION!

Sources tell us ... the COOLEST change will affect the audience ... because producers are swapping out the boring bleacher seats for a TRIPLE-TIERED balcony-styled arrangement ... kinda like where the old grumpy guys sit on "The Muppets."

Another cool change -- the massive staircase in the middle of the stage will have the ability to SPLIT into TWO halves ... which will reveal the orchestra pit.

As for the dance floor ... which was basically hardwood planks placed on the ground ... it will NOW be an elevated PLATFORM ... so if the stars fall over the edge, it could REALLY hurt.

When called for comment, a rep for the show told TMZ ... producers are "very excited" about the new changes.