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Willmar City Council supports amphitheater idea

Concept drawings from a feasibility study by Engan Associates depict a covered stage with seating for 60 to 80 performers and outdoor seating for 900 to 1,000 people on a hillside overlooking Foot Lake in Willmar. Private citizens are spearheading the amphitheater proposal. No construction will begin until funding has been raised. Submitted

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council voted Monday night to support construction of an amphitheater at Robbins Island Park.

Council support was recommended by the Community Development Committee.

Committee Vice Chairman Bruce DeBlieck, speaking for Chairman Rick Fagerlie who was absent, said the city would commit to construction when funds are raised. Project supporters were waiting for council approval before they began fundraising for the $350,000 project.

Because the project would be located on public property, it has been determined that the city should bid the project and manage construction, said DeBlieck in a report of the committee’s action to the council.

The proposal is being spearheaded by private citizens, including Bob Mathiasen. Supporters say the amphitheater could host concerts, movies and other events and that Robbins Island would be a nice location.

Mathiasen proposed the idea to the council last March, and at that time the council allocated $5,000 for a feasibility and planning study.

The study was done by Engan Associates, which donated a considerable amount of time to the study.

Last week, the committee received a revised site plan and discussed the proposal with Mathiasen and Andrew Bjur, an architect at Engan Associates of Willmar.

Council member Ron Christianson thanked Mathiasen and asked where the amphitheater would be located.

The site would be west of the Guri Shelter. Concept drawings shown by Mathiasen and Bjur depict a covered stage with seating for 60 to 80 performers and outdoor seating for 900 to 1,000 people on a hillside overlooking Foot Lake.

Bjur said the location connects with the lake, the beach, Guri Shelter, restrooms and parking amenities.

As part of the design process, Bjur said he, Mathiasen and Community Education and Recreation Director Steve Brisendine reviewed amphitheaters and amenities in other cities and came up with a design based on that research.

One fun feature would be a glass backdrop at the rear of the stage that may have some “cool features’’ in the glass itself but with a view of the lake, said Bjur.

Council member Steve Ahmann asked about funding sources.

Mayor Frank Yanish asked Mathiasen to address the question.

Mathiasen said he will seek money from three primary sources: naming rights for the stage, patio, seating and other areas; individual donors, who would be honored with a recognition marker outside of the amphitheater; and grants from local organizations.

Ahmann asked if the city has ever done a project with the help of volunteers and construction companies. He said it would be a great community project for volunteerism.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens was not sure if the city has done that, although other cities have used volunteer labor. Stevens said she and Mathiasen had discussed the possibility and there may be options to do that.

“He has agreed to spearhead this and lead the fundraising contributions and we’ll work with him on how that happens,’’ Stevens said.

Anderson praised Mathiasen, Bjur and others working on the project.

“This is really terrific,’’ he said. “You’ve got a big project ahead of you to get the funds.’’

Anderson asked about a construction timeline. Mathiasen said he will hit fundraising hard the first of the year and gauge the community’s support. He said the motion approved by the committee states no construction would begin until funds are raised.

“With that as a guide, I need to get out there and start working hard,’’ he said.

In other business, the council directed City Attorney Robert Scott to initiate formal removal proceedings for deteriorated and unsafe buildings at 1504 13th Ave. N.E. and at 944 Olaf Ave. N.W. The action was recommended by the Community Development Committee.

BeDlieck reported that staff attempted to work with the property owners to have necessary repairs made or to have the structures demolished. Those efforts have been unsuccessful, DeBlieck said.

The council also: - Approved a $27,198 contract with Dovre Township, located just north of the city limits, under which the Willmar Fire Department will provide fire protection service to the township for 2014.

- Accepted the improvement report and ordered an improvement hearing for Jan. 6, 2014, for the proposed $5.9 million MinnWest lift station and Lakeland Drive sewer and street project.

- Approved final payment of $174,800 to Greystone Construction Company of Shakopee for construction of the new salt storage shed at the Public Works garage.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150