Follow The Republic:
The city plans to seek proposals to redesign Columbus’ Mill Race Park amphitheater in hopes of creating a more inviting atmosphere for large concerts.
During big events such as Rock the Park or this weekend’s Our Hospice benefit concert, where attendance exceeds 7,000, the crowd is positioned on the lawn instead of in the Custer-Nugent Amphitheater. That’s to accommodate more spectators, as the amphitheater seating holds about 450.
The lawn-seating setup creates more distance between the audience and the artist, because the ground where the crowd assembles is lower on the lawn side, said Jayne Farber, a consultant for the Columbus Arts District and a member of the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety. A fence on that side of the stage further disrupts spectators’ view of the stage and artist.
“It’s not the most inviting environment … certainly for the audience,” said Karen Shrode, executive director of the Columbus Area Arts Council. “I know that the public appreciates having the talent closer to them.”
REO Speedwagon on Aug. 17, just like Foreigner last year, performed on a separate stage that was brought in specifically for the Rock the Park concerts. At Saturday’s Our Hospice Concert, Tommy James and the Shondells will face the same direction as REO but will perform on the amphitheater stage, which is higher off the ground than the imported stages.
Sheryl Tracey, manager of Fund Development and Special Events at Our Hospice, said the agency would welcome proposals for a facelift or redesign of the amphitheater. While the theater has served the community well for small events, she said it is now being used in a way for which it was not designed.
“In reviewing future improvements,” Tracey said, “a few suggestions would be an area for electrical equipment underneath the amphitheater that would not be impacted by flooding and excessive rainwater, additional restrooms and a kitchenette area.”
The city also wants to address such issues that are not apparent to concert fans.
Farber told the Columbus Redevelopment Commission last week that during flooding, the theater’s dressing rooms and electrical panels can get damaged by mud and water.
Farber said her team, which includes Columbus Parks Director Ben Wagner, has had conversations with stakeholders including former Irwin Financial Corp. CEO Will Miller. They plan to seek input from others, including Mill Race Park landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburg and amphitheater architect Stanley Saitowitz.
The team wants to generate ideas — ranging from slight changes to a complete redesign — to solve some of the challenges and to figure out how to pay for potential improvements.
Stakeholders will analyze suggestions carefully before any action is taken, which Farber said would delay implementation until next year or even 2015.
How changes to the amphitheater would affect seating capacity is unclear at this point.
“We’re treading very lightly,” Farber said.
Shrode said she hopes that discussions will include Tami Sharp, the Arts Council’s program director, and Chris Crawl, who handles sound, lighting and logistics for many local events.
Shrode said Sharp frequently deals with booking agents and can provide input about the kinds of things artists are looking for. The Mill Race amphitheater, for example, lacks a road that would allow access by semitrailers. That can create problems when the ground is soggy, Shrode said.
Crawl can offer tips about logistics and stage, lighting and sound design, critical components of the local theater that affect the city’s ability to attract big artists, Shrode said.
“There are all sorts of variables that (come) into play,” she said.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.