Our Views: Amphitheater will bolster entertainment in downtown Janesville

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It will be nice to see that long-awaited amphitheater rising above the stage this fall at Lower Courthouse Park in Janesville.

Members of the South Central Wisconsin Builders Association planned this project in 2007 to mark the group’s 60th anniversary. No one could have predicted the severe recession that started in 2008 and forced some contractors out of business. Amid that financial calamity, it’s understandable that this project was put off.

Now, however, amid a better climate for construction work, the association will ask the city to approve the project in May. Association members would build the structure in September and October. In-kind member donations and two sizable gifts are helping make it a reality. One gift was anonymous; the other comes from the family of the late Marvin Roth, a longtime community booster. The amphitheater would bear Roth’s name.

All this generosity deserves a round of applause.

Angus-Young Associates designed the structure in 2007. The vintage appearance will complement downtown buildings, including the former Carnegie Library that houses the senior center across the street and the arched roof of the Rock County Courthouse up the hill. The builders association at first considered a more expensive band shell to help blunt traffic noise, but the city’s historic commission favored an open-air, see-through design that didn’t block vision.

The structure would shelter performers, raise the stage for better visibility, improve electrical service for events and add lighting.

The amphitheater would bolster downtown Janesville’s efforts to become an entertainment district that attracts not just local audiences but people far and wide. It likely would encourage more use of the stage and add to the notion of downtown being a gathering place for community events that emphasize outdoor spaces, much like the Janesville Farmers Market farther north on Main Street.

This project could dovetail nicely with ideas being discussed in city meetings pushing riverfront redevelopment. The second of three meetings seeking public input is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria at Craig High School. Residents who support downtown revitalization and have constructive ideas should be sure to attend.

Likewise, the city should support this amphitheater project with a ringing endorsement.

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