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Griffin Amphitheater: Coming Soon?

May 12, 2014 03:36PM, Published by A Kitchen Drawer Writer , Categories: Community

Originally published in Volume 6 Issue 3 of Kitchen Drawer Magazine
By Rachel Scoggins

The Main Street Program, in conjunction with the Griffin Downtown Council, has begun plans to build a new amphitheater and park in downtown Griffin. The proposed site for the project, which is currently being called Solomon Park, is along Solomon Street between 5th and 6th Streets.

The city hall block has been in limbo for around six years, with different ideas proposed about the use of the property ranging from selling it as commercial development to incorporating the old city hall building into a redevelopment. Recently, the city Board of Commissioners approved a fundraising campaign to raise money to fund an amphitheater project. “The concept of a park and amphitheater in a downtown location has been around for a number of years because Griffin has no real amenity in the historical district,” Commissioner Ryan McLemore said 

This park and amphitheater project is an exciting prospect for downtown Griffin. The aim of building something as significant as an amphitheater downtown is to give new life to the area. “One goal is to create an additional purpose for people to go downtown and come together as a community,” McLemore said. It is hoped that having an amenity such as the amphitheater will encourage people to live and shop in the downtown area, bringing support to locally owned businesses and encouraging other businesses to come into downtown Griffin. Not only would the amphitheater and park provide a source of entertainment for the city, but also hopefully bring in revenue for local businesses and help the downtown area continue to grow and prosper.

President of the Downtown Council and downtown business owner Ben Johnson sees the project as an important opportunity for private citizens and businesses that care about the revival of Griffin as a business and cultural center for the region. “The impact of a town center, multi-use park as well as amphitheater in downtown to improve property value, curb appeal, tourism, and to provide a viable venue for nationally recognized artists and regional festivals cannot be underestimated,” said Johnson.

If Griffin does eventually build the amphitheater, they will be following in the footsteps of other cities with performing arts centers, such as Peachtree City, Fayetteville, Carrollton, and Marietta. The plan is for the Main Street Program to work alongside the Griffin Downtown Council to provide exciting entertainment and cultural events for the community. Some ideas include summer concert series with music of various genres, comedy shows, dance performances, benefits, and movie nights—any entertainment that brings together a large audience. The plans are to host both free and paid admission events for the community.

The projected space is approximately 2.7 acres and uses the old city hall building, the historic church, and the old county courthouse as the anchors. The amphitheater will hold over 1,000 people when completed. Suggestions received so far include both open area seating on sloped hills and making the amphitheater visible from any place in the park. Other accents such as benches, landscaping, and a fountain are also planned.

“We want to tie as much of Griffin’s history into the park as we can to create a sense of place,” McLemore stated. Examples of ideas to highlight our area’s history include incorporating the old Sixth Street Bridge trusses, using bricks from the torn down mills in the walking paths, and recognizing notable residents from the past and present in the walkways or in some other manner. “Preserving history is more than maintaining and restoring what currently exists; it is also about creating things that can become historical,” McLemore said. “The park and amphitheater give us a chance to incorporate current historical elements as well as create something that can be appreciated many years down the road.”

Since the project is in its infancy, there is no projected date of completion. They are still in the design phase and will have to determine a fundraising goal before an estimated completion date can be established. Those planning the project hope that fundraising will go smoothly, but obtaining funds can always be difficult, so they are planning for a phased-in approach to complete the park if funding goes slower than expected. “The faster we raise funds, the sooner it gets completed,” McLemore said.

The amphitheater and park will be in part a community effort. Raising funds for the project will be in large part from community support; the Main Street Program, Downtown Council, and the city welcome people who are interested in donating or being part of the fundraising committee. They will also hold an open forum to receive input on the final design of the park and amphitheater and on how to tie the preservation of Griffin’s history into the park. The park is for Griffin, and the citizens of Griffin are encouraged to be part of the process.

The amphitheater offers great opportunity for downtown Griffin and the community. A communal gathering space for entertainment and cultural events will provide Griffin residents a way to interact and socialize locally, instead of going out of town for similar events. The events have the potential to attract not only locals but also people from other cities to our town, which helps local business. Said McLemore, “The project gives us the chance to establish a greater identity when it comes to the arts and create something beautiful downtown that hopefully breathes some life into the area.”

Speaking as a lifelong resident of Griffin, a promoter of events in downtown, and as a father, Ben Johnson said, “This is a chance for this generation to create something substantial and leave Griffin better than we found it without having to ask taxpayers to foot the bill.”

griffin downtown griffin amphitheater volume 6 issue 3 georgia city planning griffin main street program solomon park griffin city parks historic downtown griffin downtown council

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