MARION — Marion residents are eager now that the effort is underway to build an amphitheater in Lowe Park.
The venue will set the stage for local artists and draw regional artists to the area.
“People who live here deserve to have a high quality way of life,” said Karen Hoyt, a retired Marion art teacher and the project committee’s co-chair. “And we feel (doing so) through the arts is a way to bring people together.”
Construction began in July for the Klopfenstein Amphitheater for the Performing Arts, a 50-foot-wide stage that will sit under an oak leaf-themed canopy. Marion Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carolan said the $1.5 million project is set to be completed by December. The amphitheater is named for Vic and Pat Klopfenstein, lifelong Marion residents who’ve remained actively involved in the community.
The plan is to use the stage beginning spring 2014 for performances from local bands or high school plays to regional performers and even weddings.
“I think when it’s all complete this creates, to me, this wonderful venue to be able to bring all kinds of different arts — whether it be a musical or play or whatever it might be,” Carolan said. “It gives this great setting for these performances.”
The project is a part of the Marion Chamber’s Imagine8, a 2008 initiative where residents identified eight projects to improve the community’s quality of life. Hoyt and Carolan said residents saw the city’s need for a permanent performance venue.
“The reason it’s a success is because the community came up with the ideas and had the will to volunteer and make sure (the ideas) came to fruition,” said Jill Ackerman, president of Marion Chamber.
The city also is working on a sculpture trail in Lowe Park, a supplementary project with the amphitheater. The trail will wind around the park past gardens, open prairie and play areas, leading to, what Hoyt calls, the amphitheater as a “grand finale.”
The project was designed by Renaissance Design Group of Des Moines with Marion companies Kleimen Construction as the general contractor and Barnes Manufacturing crafting the steel oak leaf canopy that will branch over the stage.
The project has received several grants and donations from the surrounding community and the state, including a $195,000 Great Places grant, $750,000 from the city of Marion, $25,000 raised from the Parks Foundation and $75,000 from Linn County.
“It’s validation for our volunteers that work on the project,” Ackerman said.
Hoyt said the next step following completion of the amphitheater is establishing a “friends of the amphitheater” organization to help promote the theater and help program regional acts.
“We know we have people who are passionate about the performing arts in our area,” Hoyt said. “We’re counting on the passion and energy of those people to band together to help create this new organization because we have a place they can call home.”