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Effort under way to rehab historic amphitheater in Land Park

11/05/2013 12:00 AM

11/05/2013 11:16 AM

The historic amphitheater in Land Park, where Shakespeare is performed on summer nights near a picturesque pond, is the focus of a rehabilitation effort aimed at making the facility a regional attraction.

Land Park residents, city officials and drama associations are beginning a fundraising drive they hope will lead to a vastly improved theater complex, with better seating, lighting and sightlines for patrons. The effort will kick off Thursday with an event at Sacramento City College’s Art Court Theatre.

Organizers are aiming to raise $150,000 for the initial planning and design work. The cost of the total project is unknown, but members of the group said they would likely need to raise around $3 million. That amount includes an endowment to cover ongoing maintenance costs.

“We don’t have anything else like (the amphitheater) in Sacramento,” said Phil Harvey, an architect and leader of the group behind the rehabilitation effort. “We want to enhance it for not only the people coming to the facility, but also the performers, and make it a modern facility in a historic setting.”

The amphitheater was constructed in the 1930s and 1940s as part of a Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration project. The stage was added in the 1960s, but very few – if any – upgrades have been made since.

There are no restrooms at the site. The seats do not have backs. When the drama department at Sacramento City College puts on its annual Shakespeare in the Park series, it brings its own lighting and sound equipment – not to mention Porta Potties.

As a result, the Shakespeare event is one of the few performances given each year at the theater. California Middle School in Land Park uses it for graduation ceremonies and some other schools use it for performances.

“It certainly is an under-utilized venue with great potential to house other types of events, like music, drama and even weddings,” said Mark Abrahams, the head of the Land Park Community Association.

Supporters of the renovation said the facility has some elements working for it. The amphitheater shares a large parking lot with Land Park and the Fairy Tale Town amusement center and has a spacious lawn-seating area.

Harvey said the group trying to rehab the theater wants to add a small ticketing and administrative office, permanent restrooms and better storage and preparation areas for performers. The seating – which would likely remain at around 600 – would be upgraded and could be slightly reconfigured; three or four rows of benches now share tiers of seating, making it difficult for some spectators to see the stage.

If designed and operated well, Harvey said, the facility could generate revenue to be poured into the upkeep of Land Park, which has had its maintenance staffing drastically reduced in recent years. The group envisions a summer concert series at the theater and making the facility a regional attraction.

“We want to make it into a facility that’s not just focused for use of the Land Park and Curtis Park neighborhoods,” he said.

An account to collect donations for the cause has been set up through the city of Sacramento’s Gifts to Share program that administers funds for nonprofits benefiting causes in the city. Donations can be made through the Gifts to Share website at http://giftstoshareinc.org by clicking on the “Donate” button and designating a gift to the “William Land Park Amphitheater Renovation.”

Checks made payable to Gifts to Share can be sent to the organization’s office at City Hall, 915 I St., third floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Organizers of the effort ask that those interested in attending the kickoff event from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Sacramento City College RSVP to Ruth Gottlieb at (916) 646-3827 or gottliebandassoc@comcast.net. The free event will include a preview of Sacramento City College’s “Snow White – A British Panto.”

About This Blog

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Sacramento Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com or 916-321-1085. Twitter: @Ryan_Lillis.
 

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