Plans pitched for city’s amphitheater

Posted: October 29, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — A city advisory panel got a look at the past and potential future of the Winchester McCormac Outdoor Amphitheater on Monday evening and liked what they saw.

Students from Shenandoah University provided the Winchester Parks and Recreation Advisory Board a glimpse of the amphitheater-related work they did in April. Student groups researched the feature’s history and produced conceptual designs of how it might be renovated over a six-hour period as part of SU’s Partnership with Community Day.

The designs, presented at the board’s monthly meeting, do not represent plans backed by Shenandoah.

Finding a way to get the amphitheater back into use has been identified as a goal by both City Council and the university. It’s included on the recently approved list of projects on which the two have pledged to cooperate.

Three student teams came up with prospective designs.

Two of the groups reoriented the facility, moving the stage so it faces west to take advantage of a hill. That, student design-team member Jessica Hill said, created an opportunity to provide more seating.

One group’s design was oriented to theatrical productions, while the other two could serve a variety of uses.

“We tried to create a space,” Jessica Rich said, “that would be very versatile for different events.”

One team maintained the original orientation, keeping the stage north of the seating area.

Images from the presentation could not be obtained Monday.

A team of history students also looked at the past uses of the amphitheater. Student team member Casey Turban said it foundered twice — once a year or two after it opened in the 1960s and again in 1988 when city officials tried to relaunch the facility.

Previous failures left board member Jules Bacha wondering if history could repeat itself if the amphitheater is renovated and reprogrammed.

Assistant City Manager Doug Hewett said the demand for such a venue should be determined during an upcoming needs assessment.

Jennifer Jones, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the assessment will replace a proposed update of the Parks and Recreation Department’s master plan.

The city has allocated $20,000 for the project, she said, and consultants cannot be hired to do a master plan update for that amount.

Jones, however, floated a needs-assessment project in academia, and it appears that three James Madison University professors will submit a proposal to do the work for $14,000 or less. They’ll develop and process a resident survey, then produce a report on the results.

The remaining $6,000 will cover survey printing and distribution costs.

Such work likely would cost considerably more, Jones said, but the professors plan to write a professional research paper on the project and use it as a classroom exercise.

Proposals are to be submitted by Nov. 15, and Jones said she expects the professors to attend the Nov. 25 board meeting to present their idea.

Attending the meeting at the War Memorial Building were Chairwoman Krista Farris, Vice-Chairman John Bentley and board members Jules Bacha, John Elliott, Shelly Lee, Rosie Schiavone and Brian Wigley. Board members Kyle Homan and Matt Mintschenko were absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com