Amphitheater project to start immediately
Outdoor concert and event lovers can start tapping their feet.
A project to build an outdoor amphitheater passed majority approval by the Grand Junction City Council on Wednesday night. Councilor Marty Chazen was the sole vote against awarding three contracts for construction, trail and access work. The contracts are valued at $3.3 million, with a total project cost of $3.6 million.
The decision caps nearly two years of direct debate on whether and when to build the amphitheater and moves forward a decades-old plan to develop the 130-acre Las Colonias Park, which is mostly open land in lower Grand Junction, hemmed in by the Colorado River.
Work is expected to start immediately and the structure should be completed in a year.
“We’ll try to move as quickly as possible,” Parks and Recreation Director Rob Schoeber said while presenting the contracts to councilors. “We’d like to get as much as possible done this fall with slough work and have trail and access work done through October and November. Hopefully we’ll have a ribbon cutting a year from now.”
Asset Engineering Limited will be completing work on the amphitheater, after winning the bid with a price tag of $2,957,599. Con-Sy, Inc. will complete the slough excavation work for $214,767 and Mountain Valley Contracting will complete the trail and access work for $181,025. All three companies are based in Grand Junction and were the low bidders.
Gaining approval for the amphitheater project proved a sometimes exasperating process for city staff, leaders and members of the community who pressed tirelessly for the construction. The scope of the project was trimmed down as budget projections twice came in higher than anticipated. The term “value engineering” arose frequently as city staffers worked to trim some cosmetic costs to keep the project on budget.
Literally, at the end of the day Wednesday, councilors approved an amphitheater to hold between 500 and 5,000 people. It will feature a 40-foot-by-60-foot stage with side wings, a restroom and a green room for performers. Councilors agreed to add in an additional $117,000 from Conservation Trust Fund and Open Space funds which allows the city to finish out bathrooms in the east wing, and add sod instead of grass seed on the grounds.
Still, the vote was hard won as several councilors have long expressed concern over what appeared to be the fluctuating cost of the facility, and questioning whether the city could afford it.
Councilor Barbara Traylor Smith said Wednesday night she thought it was a good idea but wished the whole project could be scaled back a bit so the city could afford some amenities that have been left out, like tables and chairs that will have to be purchased later.
“My constituents are telling me they are concerned about us cutting staff and salaries,” and that councilors should not be developing parks at a time like this, she said.
“It’s a great project. It’s a fabulous project. It’s just the timing of it,” she said.
Councilor Chazen, who cast the dissenting vote, raised a number of concerns about financing the amphitheater.
He questioned a timeline that extends to 2019 for reimbursement for the Grand Junction’s Lions Club total $260,000 contribution; he said he wasn’t comfortable with the “value engineering” aspect of the project; he wanted to know how the city planned to pay for the additional, estimated $106,000 annual operating costs; and he questioned how much the facility is expected to earn, lamenting that an operating plan was never produced.
City staff estimates the venue will attract 38 events a year with a net income of $76,000 by 2018. The number doesn’t include expenses, but city staff said those expenses will be absorbed and they couldn’t yet determine what those might be.
“I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this thing, that’s all,” Chazen said.
The project was paid for with 74 percent of grants and donations, the largest contribution a $1.6 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
About two dozen community members applauded the approval of the amphitheater after the hour-and-a-half discussion.