The City of Jeffersontown broke ground on a new multipurpose live event space on Tuesday that will host concerts, weddings and more, bringing a new performing arts venue to the East End.
The venue, Veterans Memorial Park Amphitheaterwill be part of the planned expansion of Veterans Memorial Park, a project that officials said has been seven years in the making.
The Amphitheater’s features will include an outdoor stage, a “Grand Lawn,” trails for cyclists and pedestrians, a pavilion overlooking the Grand Lawn, terraced outdoor seating, an indoor event space with a panoramic window facing the park, swinging bench trellises and a concessions building.
According to press materials provided by the City of Jeffersontown, the amphitheater will be able to accommodate up to 1,200 people inside the inner “ring” and 4,000 people inside the outer “ring.” The stage will be 1,616 square feet. (For comparison, the Louisville Orchestra’s current stage at Whitney Hall is about twice that size, according to its tech pack.)
The event venue will be 2,900 square feet and will have space for approximately 200 people at tables and chairs or 300 people for “classroom/seminar seating.”
When the venue opens, the outdoor space’s season will vary depending on the weather, but the indoor space will be open year-round.
J-Town Mayor Bill Dieruf told LEO that it’s slated to open in 14 months, pending any supply chain or pandemic delays.
At the press conference before the groundbreaking, André Kimo Stone Guess, the president and CEO of Fund for the Arts, said, “Amphitheaters are so important because they address the entire neighborhood; they address the entire community; they have open spaces for people to come [to.] And you should really be proud of the fact that this is happening in today’s environment, because this is what we need.”
“We need to be outdoors engaging with one another. We need a space, a free space, for people to come together and share their stories. We need a free space for people to come and be intergenerational,” Guess continued, “where we can engage and be proud of the places that we come from, and be proud of the unique culture that comes from those spaces.”
Mayor Dieruf spoke about the park’s appeal for families and people who might relocate to J-Town. Although the area where the park will expand was once the site of a wastewater treatment facility, its transformation into a multipurpose park speaks to J-Town’s ability to adapt in a way that brings in younger families, Dieruf said.
“My generation looked at golf courses. The next generation looks at places where they can enjoy family, they can enjoy the arts. And what better way to do that is to take a plant and repurpose it from what it was to something that you see on the [rendering poster] today,” he told the crowd.
Gesturing to the renderings of the completed park, Dieruf said, “When you look at those pictures up there, it just makes you smile. It makes you say, ‘Yes, I can have fun there. Yes, this is family. Yes, this is a community.””
Dieruf said that the impetus for building it came, in part, from J-Town’s abundance of sports programs, which left a void for children who were more interested in the arts.
He added that members of the Louisville Orchestra, including Music Director Teddy Abrams, consulted on many aspects of the stage design, including the angle of the stage — not so much to keep the sun out of their eyes, but because direct heat from the sun can change the way their instruments sound.
Though the Orchestra currently performs at Veterans Memorial Park several times a year, Dieruf plans to invite them to the Amphitheater when it opens as well. Their shows outside of downtown, Dieruf said, help make the arts more accessible to the broader community and encourage greater participation in the arts as a whole.
Other possibilities for groups and events who could use the space, according to a press release, include Kentucky Shakespeare, Kentucky Opera, Louisville Ballet, musical theater groups, choirs, church services, touring bands, local music festivals, and school graduations.
Dieruf said that one benefit of building the venue was that the City of Jeffersontown had already raised the funds for it, so there wouldn’t be a need to increase taxes.
“We’ve saved up for this, and we’re paying cash,” Dieruf said. “It’s not a burden on the next generation; it’s an enjoyment for the next generation.”
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