Construction continues on city amphitheater

By spring 2016, Jacksonville’s amphitheater will welcome live music and theatrical shows. The 4,400-square-foot venue’s seating area will face a ground-level concrete stage with a pond as backdrop for up to 400 spectators in Richard Ray Park at 1200 Commons Drive.

  • For now, the tract is all dirt piles and pits.

    But by spring 2016, Jacksonville’s amphitheater — now under construction — will welcome live music and theatrical shows after the tiered, earthen venue’s grass matures, City Manager Richard Woodruff said.

    This week, crews placed subterranean concrete ducts amid mounds that flanked the existing park’s verdant grounds.

    The 4,400-square-foot venue’s seating area will face a ground-level concrete stage with a pond as backdrop for up to 400 spectators in Richard Ray Park at 1200 Commons Drive. Richard Ray Park already has restrooms, shelters, a playground, trail and labyrinth, according

    Floating fountains also will be installed in the pond behind the stage, according to city documents.

    “The fountain can be turned off during performances,” Woodruff said.

    The project replaces a terminated proposal to build an amphitheater in Phillips Park in the city’s recreation master plan. In January, Jacksonville City Council vacated the associated grant amid “unforeseen challenges at Phillips Park,” according to city documents.

    So far, the Richard Ray Park amphitheater has cost $130,000. Construction, which started in early August, “should be completed by mid-November,” Woodruff said.

    The project’s budget was $137,000. Revenues are derived from the sale of roughly 2 acres nearby for $337,000 to Southern Crescent LLC, according to city documents.

    “Every penny of this project is coming from the sale of city land,” Woodruff said. “We’re simply reinvesting that money back in the same park.”

    The property’s sale included an agreement to install a stormwater pond on city property and use soil from the excavation to build 10-feet by 2-feet earthen steps for the amphitheater’s seating area, according to city documents.

    The current project includes construction of the seating area, stage and stormwater pond. Construction does not include parking, Woodruff said.

    Council would determine subsequent upgrades, if any.

    In addition, grass will be planted on the raised seating area sometime after construction finishes in November, he said. The raised seating area will not have seats, however, just the grass ridges. Spectators will be able to bring lawn chairs during events, he added.

    The new venue is anticipated to tap demand for types of performances that have occupied the stage at Jacksonville’s Riverwalk Park, Woodruff said.

    “Almost any activity we had in the past was held at Riverwalk Park, which will continue to be available,” he said. “I think the use of Riverwalk Park has shown that there is a large demand for performances.”

    Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett cited the popularity of the city’s movies-in-the-park showings — now held in summer at Jacksonville Commons — as an indicator of local desire for performances and shows.

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