Night Session Big Band performs an evening concert at the Ottawa Park Amphitheater in Toledo in 2011. The amphitheater needs renovations estimated at between $150,000 and $212,000.
Renovation of the Ottawa Park Amphitheater, which has seen brighter days, was the focus of a meeting in the outdoor venue Monday.
The Ottawa-Jermain Park Advisory Board has done what it can to maintain the historic venue, said board member and former president Diane Shankland but there are signs of wear throughout the theater. The stones that line the retaining wall, stairs, and seating are worn and cracked and the stage and first three rows of seating are often flooded out during heavy rains, said Ms. Shankland.
The city of Toledo has put maintenance of the structure on the back burner for several years as money was diverted from its capital improvement fund to cover gaps in the general budget, said Mayor D. Michael Collins.
“We do not have money to put in this park at this point in time. We have no flexibility in our general fund,“ Mayor Collins said.
So the Ottawa-Jermain park board is seeking new ways to raise money to restore and improve the theater. The board enlisted the help of civil engineering students from the University of Toledo to develop a five-year plan to renovate and enhance the 1,200-seat theater. The board plans to use the proposal as a springboard to raise money from private sources such as grants and corporations.
The plan presented by students Rand Jabbo, Aaron Lowell, and Jamil Macedo to Mayor Collins, the park board members, and a handful of other community members involves renovating the grounds around the amphitheater, building new structures to house restrooms and concessions, and repairing the stone wall and stairs.
The cost of the renovation plan would range between $155, 000 and $212,000.
The students found that the most critical problem involves the stone retaining wall that serves as the outer wall that greets visitor before they descend the stairs to the stage. The wall, they said, is falling apart.
The improvement plan also includes adding new lighting to make the venue usable for night events, improving the ramp to make it handicap accessible, and tearing down a storage shed on the edge of the stage to make a larger stage area.
“Now it’s time to make improvements and bring it up to date so more people can use it for weddings and other events,” Ms. Shankland said.
The amphitheater was built in 1937 as part of the Works Progress Administration during the Roosevelt administration on North Cove Boulevard near Upton Avenue, she said. But it was not used immediately after the war and soon became the target of vandals.
It has been renovated twice, first in 1963 and again in 1985, when it was reopened with great fanfare with the staging of live performance of West Side Story.
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