Scene change in the works for new Volunteer Park Amphitheater

IMG_93091-1 Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 3.26.29 PMShort of an unforeseen revolt, the Volunteer Park Amphitheater is on its way to being torn down and built anew just a stones throw from its current location.

On Tuesday night the nonprofit Volunteer Park Trust will host its second open house to show off early site schematics for a new amphitheater drawn up by ORA Architects and Walker Macy Landscape Architects. While plans to rebuild the amphitheater in its current location are still on the table, the VPT says it has received positive feedback on moving it just north of where it stands today.

Regardless of location, early plans call for some re-grading to create more natural seating, an expanded backstage, ADA accessible seating, and path improvements. Built in 1971, the all brick structure has long been in need of an upgrade. By building a new amphitheater, VPT hopes to create more sloped seating while placing the structure in a more discreet location, thus opening up the park’s sprawling lawn.

“We love the park and want to give it a boost,” said VPT board member Eliza Davidson. In a community post on CHS, the VPT laid out its argument for rebuilding the amphitheater: “Among its many inadequacies are bad acoustics, inadequate backstage space, and absence of weather protection. The stage lacks fundamental features needed to successfully present music, theatre, dance, film, and other events.”

Davidson said the group wants to hear from the public on other improvements that could be brought to a new amphitheater, including input on the fate of the structure’s built-in bathrooms. VPT’s preference is to have the bathrooms located in a separate structure. According to Davidson, the Parks department wants them included as part of the amphitheater to keep structures in the park to a minimum. Feedback gathered during Tuesday’s meeting at the Miller Community Center will be included in the architectural team’s feasibility study.

During the first open house, several commenters mentioned the need to improve acoustics in order to amplify quiet events (like Chamber Music in the Park) and dampen louder ones (like dB in the Park). The popular stage venue is host to dozens of annual events — scheduled and impromptu — and serving thousands of people as a stage for dramatic performances, music, rallies, and more.

The VPT recently applied for a City grant to generate concept designs which it hopes to have complete this summer. The overall timeline for the project is still uncertain, Davidson said, but the VPT is hoping construction can start a year from now. While the VPT has taken the lead on planning for a new amphitheater, the Parks department will have the final say in how the project moves forward.

CHS first reported on the replacement project in late 2014 when the VPT announced it was receiving a grant to fund the early work for creating a design for the project. Over the summer, the trust began the planning work including bringing on an architectural team to conduct a feasibility study. The public comments gathered Tuesday will be included in that report.

The VPT and ORA Architects will hold an amphitheater open house from 6-8 PM on Tuesday, February 16th at the Miller Community Center, 330 19th Ave E.

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