LELAND — Talks five years in the making could culminate in action Wednesday afternoon as Leland officials discuss plans to move forward on funding an amphitheater to be constructed in the town’s Founders Park.
Part of the Founders Park Master Plan assembled in March 2020, the 45-by-40 foot amphitheater would allow the park, located at 113 Town Hall Drive, to double its yearly events and accommodate more people and more prominent acts.
“The development of a true amphitheater will provide a more high-end venue that we expect will attract additional talent and give the town ample capacity for our largest events,” Leland Community Enrichment Director Wyatt Richardson said.
The Leland Tourism Development Authority will vote on approving a $150,000 grant to give to the town for half of the amphitheater’s $300,000 cost estimate. The authority collects funds through occupancy taxes to put towards tourism-related opportunities.
A new amphitheater, designed by engineering group McGill Associates, would be an upgrade from the 30-by-16 foot platform stage installed now, which is inadequate for large acts, according to town officials. Richardson noted the town has to bring in a mobile stage for larger bands, which costs the town $2500 to $3500 on average.
Annually, the park currently hosts nine concerts, seven movies, a handful of medium-sized and two large-scale events — Founders Day and Leland in Lights. With the new amphitheater, the goal is to host up to 20 concerts a year with over 10,000 annual attendees, compared to its current total of 7,200. Richardson said the upgrade will attract more prestigious acts.
Described as the “flagship facility” of Leland Parks and Recreation, the 8-acre Founders Park has a half-mile paved multi-use path, fit trail stretch station, playground equipment, a gazebo, an outdoor uncovered stage, picnic tables and a large free play green space.
An amphitheater is only one component of the park renovations estimated to take 10 to 12 months to complete, beginning in January 2023.
Outlined in the master plan, the amphitheater would be the park’s central fixture adjacent to the large open lawn space. The plan states:
“By framing the open space with walkways and landscape, it provides a sense of place that feels comfortable for both large gatherings, such as movies in the park, and small gatherings, such as a family picnic on the lawn.”
Other new amenities include a splash pad to be located near a new restroom facility and existing playground. Designs include another “natural” play area off the multi-use path in property’s western part. The town will incorporate a memorial for veterans in the park near Town Hall.
Around 85 parking spaces will be added to the property to accommodate the improved amenities, along with additional trees and small gardens to beautify the park.
The total cost of the improvements reaches $6.7 million. According to Richardson, the town is pursuing a number of grant opportunities, like the one from the LTDA, to offset costs. At the end of 2021, the town received a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant for $489,000. A portion of that will go toward the amphitheater and amenities.
The Founders Park master plan was drafted in 2017 after the town hosted public feedback sessions. According to results, community members rated town facilities by household importance. Trails, sidewalks and bike paths were the number one requests among 72% responding, open space/natural areas were number two at 67% and community/neighborhood parks were third at 55%.
Richardson said the town plans to conduct more surveys to gather public input as the park’s designs are finalized and contractors are reviewed.
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