New Amphitheater Brings New Concerns

BLYTHEWOOD (Jan. 19, 2017) – As Council, contractors, major donors and friends of the park spent the better part of Tuesday celebrating the eminent rise of the amphitheater in the park with a ground breaking, ribbon cutting and big check photo op, Town Administrator Gary Parker suggested they will also soon have to tackle some of the worrisome realities associated with having an amphitheater in the park and its proximity to the Manor.

“Over the last few months, the Town staff has met three times on various matters to do with the amphitheater,” Parker told Council at an early morning workshop Tuesday. “We would like to get some direction from Council about the facility’s availability and rental. Is it only for local groups or is it to be marketed to outside private, for-profit groups as well?”

Parker asked who would be using the facility – faith-based, civic, non-profit, government, corporate users and commercial performers? He also asked about hiring professional management.

“We need a plan,” Steve Hasterok, Events and Conference Director, told Council. “Our amphitheater is going to be very accessible from all angles. We don’t have fencing or gates. So I have some questions about security. It’s built in tiers and we have lots of skate boarders in the park. So that’s a worry.

“And how are we going to market it?” Hasterok asked. “To make a profit, or do we just cover our costs?”

“As I recall,” Councilman Tom Utroska said, “this was going to be a public forum. There were comments from the citizens and from the media asking what affect it would have on a performance when the train goes by,” he joked. “When I was on the Park Committee, the intent was for local use. If we want it to be a business enterprise, then we can. If we want to keep it as a public forum, then we can keep it that way.”

Hasterok also questioned what kind of security the amphitheater would have.

“Will we have our own security here on weekends? Even during the week, it will be an unprotected facility. We will have very expensive equipment over there, lighting, boom lights, things like that.” Hasterok said.

“If we have to have security when there is nothing going on, then we have totally defeated our original idea. Unless someone comes up with some funds to pay for it, we’re bordering on the ridiculous,” Utroska said. “If it’s going to be public, we need to think about getting sponsors.”

Hasterok said his greatest concern was how the amphitheater would interact with The Manor.

“On Saturdays and Sundays when people are paying $3,000 or $4,000 to rent The Manor, what’s the interplay between it and the amphitheater? We have weddings on Saturdays and Sundays. We need to get ready, because we’re already getting inquiries from community groups about renting the amphitheater,” Hasterok said.

“Why don’t we focus on it being a community venue at first – learn as we go before we see if there is a commercial demand,” Parker said. “I think professional groups will be interested.”

Mayor J. Michael Ross agreed.

“I’m not ready to commit money to a marketing manager,” he said. “We have sister towns and communities that have already dealt with these issues. We need to learn from them.”

Construction of the amphitheater is expected to be completed by May.