Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Plans for a community amphitheater at Veterans Memorial Park in Collegedale have been suspended due to a decision by the city to change the location of the potential amphitheater and community pavilion.
According to Collegedale City Manager Ted Rogers, the widening of Apison Pike makes the planned site inconducive for an orchestra concert and may also raise safety concerns for people coming and going from a concert on foot.
“With the widening of Apison Pike and especially after receiving word from TDOT that they’re considering adding a second turn lane, it’s just a bad spot,” said Rogers. “As the city grows, it’s going to not work out, and it’s just a matter of growth.”
The original agreement with the East Tennessee Symphony Orchestra was that the orchestra would raise funds for the project with the understanding that the structure would be built on city property and be maintained by the city.
At a recent Collegedale Commission workshop, Rogers, commissioners and ETSO manager Cameron Kuhlman briefly discussed the topic of relocating the future site of the amphitheater to Swinyar Drive behind the Collegedale Medical Plaza. Currently that property belongs to Southern Adventist University and would require the city to acquire the land in order to uphold the previous agreement between the city and the orchestra.
According to Kuhlman, the orchestra spent an estimated $40,000 drafting plans for the structure at the old site, and the organization is unsure whether or not it can transfer the existing plans to the proposed new site. Until that site is owned by the city or a new agreement is worked out, he said there is no way for the organization to move forward with plans.
“It’s really the prospect of spending more money on a project for which we’re ill-equipped that prompted my attendance at the meeting,” said Kuhlman. “Our organization needed some clarity from the city regarding their intentions.”
All operations on the project have been paused until a land acquisition and solid agreement have been put in place, said Kuhlman.
“To raise $850,000 would’ve been feasible, but to fundraise for a project now five times that size is beyond the capacity of our small organization,” he said.
During the workshop meeting Rogers mentioned a possible agreement with the university but said reaching an agreement may be more difficult than it appears on the surface.
“I think one of the things Southern wants to talk about is a land swap of some sort, and that’s a whole lot more complicated,” he said. “Legally, it’s not as simple as swapping this land for that.”
Completing construction of the amphitheater within the year is no longer an accurate timeline for the project. The timeline will be determined by where the site is located and which partners will be involved, he said.
“In theory the city supports it,” said Rogers of the project. “But our problem is that there’s no possible way we could support [a yearlong construction] timeline financially. No. 2, I was never under the understanding that we were going to be a major financial benefactor on the project.”
Vice Mayor Tim Johnson criticized the lack of communication between the organizations.
“I think we need some sort of project task force,” he said. “We need to be on whatever board you have. I just think there’s a lot of miscommunication going on. I don’t remember talking about [the project] more than a handful of times. For two and half years, to me that’s amiss.”
Mayor John Turner agreed to spearhead a coordinated effort with the orchestra and potentially the university.