OUR VIEW: Think before spending money on amphitheaterThe amphitheater was apparently carved and shaped during the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, and city leaders at that time envisioned it as a popular spot for concerts and other public gatherings.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department’s five-year plan includes adding some infrastructure to improve the sledding experience at the Lake Mitchell amphitheater, we reported Thursday.
The plans are underpinned by laudable intentions, but we urge city leaders to think critically before they spend any of the public’s money at the amphitheater.
For the uninformed, the amphitheater is a big, half-bowl depression in the ground along the shore of Lake Mitchell, in the area between Kiwanis Woodlot Park and the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village. The amphitheater was apparently carved and shaped during the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, and city leaders at that time envisioned it as a popular spot for concerts and other public gatherings. And, for a time, it apparently served that purpose.
These days, though, the amphitheater receives virtually no use in the spring, summer or fall. In the wintertime, it comes alive with families and kids who enjoy zooming down the snow-covered slopes.
The amphitheater was the subject of controversy in 2008 when private interests proposed building a fixed-seat performance facility there. That raised the ire of some who were angry at the potential loss of their favorite sledding spot. City officials responded by appointing a task force that scoured the city looking for sites that could be designated for sledding if the amphitheater was converted to concrete and seats. Two potential sites were chosen, though the locations and owners were kept confidential.
The fixed-seating project lost steam and is apparently dead. With the amphitheater’s future as a sledding spot assured, city officials have naturally considered fixing the place up a bit. Nighttime lighting and a ski lift have been discussed.
We’re not sure those are good ideas.
The steepness of the amphitheater is the only thing that makes it good for sledding. Its bowl shape is problematic and even dangerous.
When the place is busy, dozens of sledders are funneled into a basin-like area at the bottom where they often collide. It’s common to see two or more sledders crash into each other (and sometimes it’s large adults crashing into small kids), and for people standing at the bottom to be taken out at the ankles. It’s as if the place is designed to produce injuries.
And so we wonder if investing money in the amphitheater is a good idea. We have no problem with continued sledding at the amphitheater; in fact, we encourage it. It’s fun, as long as people use caution and common sense.
We also support the idea of designating an official sledding park and investing in its infrastructure. We just think city officials ought to first revisit the findings of the sledding-site task force and think carefully about whether the amphitheater is the best place to make investments on behalf of the public.