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Volunteer Park Amphitheater Project Update – December 2018

Seattle Parks District’s Major Projects Challenge Fund has approved a $900,000 grant, and Seattle Parks and Recreation has confirmed an additional $415,000 in funding. We have also received early pledges of $185,000 in private donations, bringing the total raised to $1.5 million, or just over 55% of the total $2.7 million needed. Volunteer Park Trust has begun a year-long capital campaign to raise the remaining $1.2 million. Construction on the new amphitheater is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020.

The current performance stage

Volunteer Park’s nearly 50-year-old amphitheater is outdated and is no longer meeting the needs of the community:

  • The concrete stage surface is inappropriate and unsafe for many dancers and performers, limiting many to using the lawn as a stage.
  • Poor acoustics hinder the experience for performers and audiences. Without a roof, sound is easily broadcast into the neighborhood.
  • No protection from the elements for performers, stage sets, equipment, and instruments limits use of the space.
  • An unsafe atmosphere is maintained where the solid walls hide illegal activities. The bathrooms are unsafe and remain locked for most of the year.
  • Lack of accessibility causes people with disabilities great difficulty both in getting onstage and simply attending events.

Meeting community needs

The project will replace the current structure with a new, covered stage, expanding the use of the outdoor performance space. The new amphitheater will:

  • Broaden performance diversity by accommodating theater, film, music, spoken word, and multimedia performances. The new amphitheater will be the only public venue in Seattle specifically designed to accommodate outdoor dance performances.
  • Improve conditions for performers as a more fully equipped performance location with built in amenities for sound rigging and stage production.
  • Build meaningful connections through diverse community gatherings to inspire greater understanding among residents of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Improve accessibility through ADA-compliant pathways and backstage access as well as dedicated space for audience members in wheelchairs.
  • Upgrade acoustics and reduce noise by using design strategies that direct sound to the audience rather than into the neighborhood.
  • Improve the space for daily park use with safe public restrooms and a covered stage to support informal activities, such as yoga classes or school groups.
  • Honor the philosophy of the park’s designers, the famous Olmsted Brothers, by providing open space for all and continuing free-of-charge public performances.

Encouraged by community support

Annually, the amphitheater hosts nearly 40,000 audience members, 40% of whom attend events produced by or for people based in under-served neighborhoods. Volunteer Park Trust spent nearly four years engaging with the community to envision an improved Volunteer Park amphitheater.

Participants in the planning process have included neighbors, Volunteer Park stakeholders (including Seattle Asian Art Museum and Friends of the Conservatory), the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Friends of Seattle Olmsted Parks, civic leaders and more than 30 community groups and arts organizations.

The amphitheater design and project goals are shaped by input from these diverse community members. They expressed overwhelming support for the amphitheater to become a regional destination for the arts and a vibrant community gathering place.

Community organizations participating in Volunteer Park Amphitheater planning

12th Ave Arts
ACT Theater
Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks
GreenStage (Shakespeare in the Park)
Hugo House
Jack Straw Cultural Center
Jubilee Women’s Center
Make Music Seattle
On the Boards
Pacific NW Ballet
Parkour Visions
Seattle Asian Art Museum
Seattle Chamber Music Society
Seattle Choral Company
Seattle Opera
Seattle Peace Concerts
Seattle PRIDE Picnic
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Seattle Symphony
Southside Booty Camp
Spectrum Dance
St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
Taco Truck Challenge
Theater Schmeater
Theatre Puget Sound
Velocity Dance Center
Vibrations Festival
Volunteer Park Conservatory
Wayward Music Festival
Whim W’Him

Local organizations who have sent letters of support

Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services
Allied Arts Foundation
Associated Recreation Council
Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce
Capitol Hill Community Council
Denny Triangle Neighborhood Association
Eastlake Community Council
Fremont Arts Council
Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks
Georgetown Community Council
Greater Seattle Business Association
Modern Enterprises
Mount Baker Neighborhood Center for the Arts
Northeast District Council
Othello Park Alliance
Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council
Queen Anne Community Council
Rainier Beach Community Club
Seattle Parks Foundation
South Park Neighborhood Association

Project history

We are proud of our Amphitheater Project accomplishments to date, with thanks to funding from Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (2015-17):

2015 – Hired project leads ORA Architects and Walker Macy Landscape Architects and completed the Feasibility Study & Design Program with extensive outreach to neighbors, park users, the general public, and over 30 performance and community groups.

2016 – Completed the conceptual schematic designs for new Amphitheater.

2017 – Completed final schematic design for the new Amphitheater approved by community groups, performance companies, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and by Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board.

2018 – Achieved $1.5 million in initial funding and began planning the launch of our capital campaign to raise the entire $2.7 million needed.

More Information

See our website Amphitheater Project page