Janesville riverside amphitheater plans still alive

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Jake Magee
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

JANESVILLEPlans for a riverside amphitheater are still alive, but it won't be built as soon as officials had hoped.

More than three years ago, Forward Janesville unveiled plans to build an amphitheater in a grassy area between the Janesville Performing Arts Center and Hedberg Public Library downtown.

The $4.8 million amphitheater would include a large stage and a permanent building for restrooms, concessions and ticketing. It would be able to hold up to 4,200 people, according to Gazette reports.

Organizers had ambitious plans to open it by July 4, 2015. Now, Forward Janesville President John Beckord said the organization hopes to have it open and running by 2019.

Forward Janesville's charitable organization, Forward Foundation, isn't fundraising only for the amphitheater. It's raising money for several projects connected to ARISE, the city's effort to revitalize downtown.

Those projects include an interactive water fountain and a pedestrian bridge stretching across the Rock River where the parking deck used to be.

Along with the amphitheater are plans to enhance the Janesville Performing Arts Center by creating rehearsal and storage space in JPAC's lower level, upgrading technology, and adding an elevator and office space, Beckord said.

The projects total about $9 million, with the proposed amphitheater making up about half. The costs are only estimates so far, Beckord said.

Forward Foundation has raised about $1 million through private donations so far. In October, the fundraising will go public, he said.

Mercyhealth recently loaned one of its employees, Kelli Cameron, to help organize community fundraising for ARISE projects, Beckord said.

Forward Janesville officials are confident the foundation can raise enough money to do all the projects. The expectation is that everything will be completed over the next five years, he said.

Donations are not being earmarked for particular projects; instead, they're all going into the same pot. Officials will decide later which projects take precedence, Beckord said.

While the amphitheater could hold more than 4,000 people, Beckord doesn't expect crowds of that size.

"More typically, the shows would be 2,500 or less," he said.

The amphitheater could be used for touring regional and national music performances, radio shows and comedy acts. Beckord cited "A Prairie Home Companion" and "Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science" as examples of shows Janesville's amphitheater could host.

Officials have said the amphitheater annually could host six to eight large events that might require shuttle service. It could bring in $1 million in revenue annually and would be managed by an outside company.

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