explores plan to
build amphitheater by 2009
may try to finance the park
by selling townhouses near the river
(August 2005) Festival-goers coming to Madisons riverfront
may soon have an elaborate outdoor viewing area to watch concerts, plays
or other events with the citys planned construction of an amphitheater
on Vaughn Drive.
IN Edition Cover
The plan is part of a longterm project to have the facility
completed in time for the citys Bicentennial in 2009. The complex
is tentatively being named Madison Bicentennial Park to commemorate
the citys founding in 1809.
Madison city officials discussed plans at a City Council meeting held
in July. Bicentennial Park would make use of the vacant block between
East First and Vaughn Street, and West Street and Central Avenue, site
where the former Maddox Tobacco Warehouse once stood. In recent years,
the site, referred to as The Slab because of the concrete
floor that still remains there, has been used for local festivals and
for parking cars during the annual Madison Regatta. Portions of the
area already have been fenced off, and large mounds of dirt have been
piled there. The dirt came from construction of the new county jail
near the courthouse.
Ken Boyce of Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects, presented a preferred
concept design to council members and the public at the July 5
We wanted to benefit Madison in the form of a public park, a space
that became the geographic center of festival activities, said
The concept drawing includes an amphitheater, restrooms, a fountain
and a long platform of canvas awnings for vendors or other use. A row
of townhouses along East First Street could help pay for the project,
This is still a very malleable plan, Boyce said. At this
point, there is no timetable or commitment to build the park.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington asked Ratio to help develop the plans, which
would center on an amphitheater. One of the things Id really
like to see in Madison in the summer is theater, Huntington said.
Boyce said that the parks role as a performance area helped define
the proposed layout. A stage area would be in the southeast corner of
the park, thus integrating the river as a backdrop for evening performances
without forcing spectators to squint into the setting sun. Rather than
permanent seating, a terraced lawn would radiate out from the stage
in what Boyce referred to as an earthform bowl. Capacity
is estimated at up to 4,000 attendees.
by Don Ward
the city has a long way to go
before construction would begin, piles of dirt taken from the
Jefferson County Jail
project have already been dumped at the
amphitheater site near the riverfront.
Regarding the stage itself, Huntington explained that
there are two schools of thought one that wants a permanent
stage and another that would like to see a portable one. The planners
are still taking input from community members, particularly musicians
and theater enthusiasts, to decide on the best facility. Boyce said
that a combination of both types is likely, in which a temporary stage
is set up within a large permanent structure like a park shelter. The
shelter could be rented for events, such as corporate picnics when not
The Ratio design places a restroom building at the southwest corner
of the park, where it would not interfere with performances. Boyce described
the proposed restrooms as having an industrial character,
saying, We want the park to be of its time but responding to the
history of the riverfront.
Council members fervently agreed that the city needs a restroom on the
riverfront, but they worried that a facility could become a target for
vandalism. We put in restrooms in the middle of town on Main Street
and they still get vandalized, said Council member David Carlow.
Through careful selection of materials, Boyce explained that they could
make the restrooms vandal-resistant and more easily repairable.
Huntington assured the council that the facility would have the same
quality of features as the Main Street Comfort Station. A similar security
system would be installed, and the mayor noted that cameras at the Main
Street restrooms have led to the arrest of several vandals already.
A fountain with below-grade jets is also planned near the southwest
corner. The fountain would probably be interactive, but Boyce reiterated
that the park is still in the conceptual stage.
At the rear of the terraced seating area, a long platform situated atop
a low retaining wall would diagonally bisect the park. This platform
features removable awnings, and could be used for farmers market
vendors, festival booths, and VIP seating. Beyond this structure, a
large lawn would continue the amphitheater shape for extra seating,
but with a flatter slope.
by Alyssa Brown
Jeffersonville, Ind., amphitheater
provides tiered, grass seating and a mobile
stage aboard a floating barge.
The design apportions a strip along East First Street
for the development of 10-15 townhouse units. In theory, the city would
issue a request for proposal, developers would give a quote to build
the houses along certain guidelines, and the city would award the job
accordingly. The city could retain control over the project and would
sell the completed modules to finance the park.
Boyce said design of the houses would be contextual and appropriate
for the location. The houses would be two stories on First Street and
three stories on the south side. An off-street parking area would be
located on the south side of the homes, with an area of trees and shrubbery
just beyond that. This woodland buffer zone would encircle
the entire amphitheater and park lawn, creating a dense perimeter to
minimize outside noise and allow event organizers to control revenue
during certain events.
In addition to vandalism, council members voiced concern about flooding.
Boyce explained that temporary staging could be easily moved in the
event of flooding, and the restrooms and fountain would be designed
to minimize damage. But a flood on the scale of that in 1997 would require
plenty of old-fashioned cleanup.
Area residents may be familiar with Ratio Architects work. The
firm, one of Indianas largest, designed the new Clifty Inn, as
well as the Belterra Casino Hotel and the Madison Heritage Trail.
Boyce has examined other riverfront developments, and said he plans
to visit the new amphitheater in Jeffersonville, Ind., for insight into
the Bicentennial Park project.
Jeffersonvilles Terrace Lawn, which can hold 2,500 spectators,
was built in 1999 with federal grant money. According to Jeffersonville
Parks Superintendent Robert Poss, the site was formerly a hillside with
dilapidated boat docks. Last year, officials debuted the River Stage,
a barge that has been retrofitted with a large covered stage complete
with lighting, sound equipment, and a changing area.
This year has been the River Stages first full season. Beverly
Knight of the Jeffersonville Mayors Office is responsible for
organizing amphitheater performances. Because all events are free, Knight
explained that the River Stage series is primarily supported through
private fund raising and local sponsors. The series includes local and
regional bands and variety shows as well as community theater productions.
Regulations dictating when and where vessels can be docked rely on traffic,
water levels and other factors, so the barge is not permanently moored
at Terrace Lawn. Last year, the stage was stored at a Jeffersonville
marina for the offseason.
We work closely with the Army Corps of Engineers in determining
dates, Poss said.
Before the River Stage was acquired, a temporary stage was set up on
the bottom tier of the terrace, and this spot is still used when the
barge is unavailable. For example, organizers will show the film Grease
on an inflatable screen in conjunction with a classic car show to be
held at the park later this summer.
The amphitheater flooded earlier this year when the heavy snows melted,
but it saw no permanent damage. Knight explained that officials would
like to build restrooms, but they rely on portolets for now. The
public has been supportive of the fact that we dont yet have restrooms,
Riverfront Park in Rising Sun is another potential site
of interest for Madisons Bicentennial Park planners. While Riverfront
Park does not include an amphitheater, an impressive pavilion that extends
to the river occasionally is used for concerts. The current phase, which
includes a new fountain, is scheduled to be completed later this summer.
The park is the site of events such as River Days and the Navy Bean
Festival, and includes transient dockage for 10-15 boats.
A park like this lends itself to a number of uses, said
Rising Sun-Ohio County Tourism Director Sherry Timms.
Madison event organizers say they are pleased with the initial Bicentennial
Park plans. The Madison Ribberfest, now in its fourth year, takes place
on the site of the potential park. According to director Kathy Ayers,
12,000 to 13,000 wristbands were sold last year, and the event has grown
20-30 percent each year. The new park could constrict the space available
for the festival, but Ayers sees the park as a positive development.
As Ribberfest grows, well probably spread down Vaughn Drive,
With or without Bicentennial Park, Ayers expects the festival to require
a second stage in coming years. I dont think it will limit
us at all. In the long run, itll be such a beautiful area it will
greatly enhance the event.
Ayers suggested that an aesthetic park would likely boost advance sales,
since Ribberfest fans from out of town would be eager to return.
Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art coordinator Georgie Kelly agrees.
I see a lot of positives we can certainly use the
performance area, said Kelly, who oversees the citys largest
single tourism event. Chautauqua performances are usually set up on
the Lanier Mansion lawn and near the riverfront gazebo, and a classical
concert is held at the Christ Episcopal Church.
The park would lend itself to other uses, in addition to large festivals
and events. Madison Main Street Program, for instance, holds a summer
concert series at the Broadway Fountain but has also held such events
at the riverfront. Various local groups may also want to make use of
a stage and theater-style seating.
This park could become a gathering place for the community on
a day-to-day basis, Boyce said.
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