Lee’s Summit is leaning on experiences of other communities do help design an amphitheater in Legacy Park that’s best for its needs.
Several parks department employees, a park board member and two other volunteers went to St. Louis, Cedar Rapids and then Omaha in late December to tour facilities in those areas.
“Each place we visited had something we really needed to learn,” Parks Administrator Tom Lovell said.
He said they learned from managers that on the business side it’s important to have well-crafted contracts and check the background of each acts as to whether they honor those contracts.
Voters in April approved $1.64 million for improving the existing amphitheater which is now grassy area for seating and a concrete pad next to the community center. The tentative plan is to add parking, stage and other amenities.
The city also is working on a smaller outdoor performance space downtown.
Lovell said they also learned that retail sales of food and concessions is important for meeting operating costs, because typically the acts expect to get the ticket revenue.
Aside from touring acts and performances of local community theater and dance groups, the venues also are used for weddings, movies and open mic nights.
Lovell said the parks department’s goal is to make its facilities such as community centers self-supporting, regarding operating costs, after they’re built.
Lovell said the venue at Cedar Rapids contracted with a company to manage its venue.
He said architects will start with the best-case scenario, with all the features desired, and as cost estimates become solid, scale back where needed to get a serviceable venue but with the budget. It also has to be of an efficient size for the Lee’s Summit market.
“It won’t do us any good to build something we can’t afford to operate,” Lovell said.
In the city’s favor, the earthwork is done on the site and water, sewers and power are already at the community center.
Duncan Webb, of Webb Management Services, Inc., is working on a business plan for the facility. He is consultant who helped the city create its Cultural Facilities Master Plan. The department has chosen Shaughnessy, Fickel & Scott Architects Inc. to design the amphitheater improvements. That firm designed City Hall.
Ben Martin, president of Summit Theatre Group, said the big news from the trip was that comparing costs of those three venues with Lee’s Summit’s budget, the city should be able to improve its amphitheater so that it will stage useful for a wide variety of shows.
“We all agree we need a sizable space that could at least hold the symphony on stage,” Martin said. He aid the improvements will probably include a support building at the stage for performers and a concessions/restrooms for the audience. Sponsorships are an important part of making the venue self-supporting, Lovell said.
Lovell and Martin said the group got good ideas from each amphitheater visited, and some features they wouldn’t want to copy.
Managers of each of the venues visited each stressed the importance of concessions to supplement income and “complete the balance sheet.”