Thursday, Mar. 14 2013 5:05PM
Setting the stage for cultural arts
By Russ Pulley
The amphitheater at Legacy Park is not much more than a concrete pad at the bottom of a hillside. It provides grass seating in a pleasant scene.
Putting on a show means hauling equipment to the site, along with portable restrooms, lighting and the other amenities needed for a performance.
The venue has been used for many events, including music concerts, an outdoor movie and a one-time Shakespeare performance. But it could be much more, say supporters of a nearly $2.9 million bond issue for cultural arts to be voted on April 2.
Imagine a concert under the stars by the Lee’s Summit Symphony Orchestra or a big-voiced summer musical produced by the Summit Theatre Group. Supporters say that’s what the community will get for its investment.
James Wright, a board member for the theatre group and professional performer, predicts that with a proper stage and facilities, Summit Theatre Group could grow to compare with Shawnee Mission Theater in the Park which is attended by thousands each season.
“We could do the same thing,” Wright said. “We could really talk about putting cultural arts on the map for the metro.”
But now the concrete pad and grass seating now there are wholly inadequate, he said.
About $1.64 million of bond money would be budgeted for the Legacy Park improvements. The rest would be for a festival space and renovating a historic 1939 post office, possibly for exhibit space for the Lee’s Summit Historical Society.
The amphitheater improvements would include a permanent, covered stage, along with dressing rooms, storage, restrooms for performers, lighting and sound system, and fencing with plantings constructed to improve acoustics.
“You don’t want the sound coming back at you from behind,” said Joe Snook, assistant parks administrator.
Snook said the plan calls for a covered stage, but whether it will be fabric or solid roof isn’t decided. Design work will be completed if the bond issue for cultural arts is approved. The enhancements also would add a box office and permanent public restrooms and more parking.
A major cost will be adding 150 parking spaces, along with a graded area for overflow parking on grass. That area would have enough room to add 150 more paved parking spaces as need at the amphitheater grows, Snook said.
The amphitheater shares 300 parking spaces with the adjacent community center and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Early Education Center, but many of them would be in use for the community center.
Snook said the park’s department consultants recommend that for a performance will be an average of one car for two people and the amphitheater capacity is about 2,000, but there haven’t been crowds that large yet.
Two music events last season only brought crowds of 350 to 400, Snook said. But in one instance attendance was hampered by bad weather and in the second a quickly scheduled show that didn’t get enough promotion, he said.
With improvements at the amphitheater and people becoming more aware of the facility, he expects there will be no problems filling a schedule and the amphitheater. He said that the popular, free, downtown summer concerts drop in attendance if it’s blistering hot or rainy. He cites last year’s outdoor movie as evidence.
About 1,300 people attended the park department’s offer of The Lorax.
“When the weather is good, we’re packed to the gills,” Snook said. “That shows us there’s a desire for this kind of opportunity.”