Monday, April 6, 2009

Elmwood Park Favored for Amphitheatre a Second Time

Elmwood Park Amphitheatre Rendering

Elmwood Park Amphitheatre Rendering

Almost two years ago Bullock Smith & Partners, consultants in Nashville Tennessee told the Roanoke City Council that the Elmwood Park location for an Amphitheater was far better than Reserve Avenue. Back then both Council members Gwen Mason and then Vice-Mayor David Trinkle were skeptical of the consultants recommendation. Mason thought that the consultants were prejudicial toward downtown venues in general.

Consultants then defended their recommendations to no avail – see The Roanoke Times account here!

Both Mason and Trinkle could not dispute a second recommendation by the same team they favored for management of the Roanoke Civic Center. Ken MacDonald, director of venue management for Red Light recommended Elmwood Park without hesitation. If you were observing the presentation you could see that he was going there. The team recommended Elmwood Park for the same reasons the previous consultants were steadfast in their conclusions in June 2007.

One clear difference was the cost. It would cost $21 million for the Reserve Avenue site where filling and elevating an amphitheater out of the flood plane (though not completely) added heavily to the cost. The Elmwood Park site comes in at $12 million. Elmwood Park’s ready access to utilities and natural slope was also cost beneficial. Mark Husser of Grimshaw Architects out of New York said they could utilize the unused bottom part of the existing library for stage storage.

Councilman Court Rosen who favored the Reserve Avenue site brought up the “rock” in Elmwood Park again. This time Tim Thiel, a principal and project manager with SPEC Technologies and  senior planner for the Charlottesville Pavilion had an answer – “rock is our friend.” He later explained how anchors into the rock would stablize the structure . There would be 3000 seats covered and 2000 seats uncovered for a total of a 5000 seating capacity. Kirby Hutto, general manager of the Charlottesville amphitheatre backed up MacDonald when asked if  Roanoke could support Amphitheatre venues – both commercial and community events. There had been some concern on the Elmwood site continuing to host events like Local Colors.  MacDonald said it could easily be used for both.

The bottom line according to MacDonald was that the Elmwood Park location would produce a patron experince resulting in more money spent downtown. “The economic activity has so much more potential than at Reserve Avenue,” said MacDonald.

To the economics of the amphitheatre and its ability to support without subsidy MacDonald and Hutto said careful event planning such as having a car show then booking “Jan and Dean” would increase appeal. For those of you who ask “what is a Jan and Dean?” Does “Dead Man’s Curve” or “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” ring a bell or rather crank your engine?

Ice skating in the winter months could even be added using a third party said MacDonald.

The park would be open all day everyday.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, Roanoke City Politics

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