As construction of the multi-million dollar Terry Brown Amphitheater begins in earnest near the Riverwalk, it brings with it great promise.
A showplace such as the planned 3,500-seat outdoor concert venue could draw more tourism dollars into the city and provide area residents with more entertainment options closer to home. It could be an example of what a small rural town can bring to bear with the right resources and leadership.
However, the old “Field of Dreams” philosophy of “build it and they will come” will not accomplish much. In fact, as laborious as the process of obtaining funds, designing and beginning construction for the amphitheater has been, that part will likely prove to be the easiest and most straightforward.
Making this project truly successful will require effectively programing and marketing the venue to draw diverse, quality acts within its weight class that people will come here to see. At about 1,100 permanent seats with grass space that can accommodate about 2,400 more, those acts certainly aren’t going to compete with what much larger stadiums or convention centers may draw, but it shouldn’t be anything to sneeze at either.
The city is using roughly $3.2 million in state-issued funds to build the amphitheater stage and prepare the site for future construction, all of which should be done by spring.
From there, City Engineer Kevin Stafford said Columbus needs another $2 million from the Legislature to install permanent seating, restrooms and concession facilities.
Mayor Robert Smith said the city plans to work with a professional promoter to recruit and market acts for the amphitheater, and the process of hiring the promoter will begin after the city has in-hand the $2 million it needs to complete the project.
All of this seems perfectly legitimate and is encouraging.
Some communities are able to build concert venues and make them work — Tuscaloosa and Tupelo being two nearby examples — others end up with decaying, idle monuments to what might have been.
Decisions about programing and management of the amphitheater will likely determine the success or failure of our amphitheater.
It’s not too early to start thinking about these challenges, especially now that workers are pouring concrete.
We urge the city to hire the most capable firm for this all-important function. Success depends on it.