City is investigating possibility of an amphitheater uptown

January 2, 2015

Martinsville officials are targeting a new location uptown to develop an outdoor area where concerts and other performances could be held. 

Having an amphitheater in Martinsville would enhance local quality of life by adding another place for people to go for entertainment, said Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Wayne Knox.

Amphitheaters in Roanoke and Charlottesville, among other places, became popular venues, Knox said. 

He emphasized that the amphitheater is just an idea for now.

But “if all of the pieces fall into place, it would be a good project for the city,” Knox said. 

Martinsville officials first must find money to establish a local amphitheater. Knox estimated the cost at about $100,000, which would cover purchasing and grading the property as well as installing grass, a stage, lighting and electrical hookups.

The city will pursue finding state and/or federal grants to pay for the project, probably in the new fiscal year that will start July 1, he added. 

Plans were to put an amphitheater behind the historic courthouse uptown, but the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society had other plans for the property, Knox said. Also, a nearby building would have had to be purchased for demolition, and the city did not have the money to buy it, he said.

Now, the city is looking to put an amphitheater on a hillside near Depot and Franklin streets, the uptown walking trail and the former Fasten-All building. The site also is close to Commonwealth Centre — the former Tultex Corp. factory — and a pedestrian bridge crossing Commonwealth Boulevard. 

Amphitheaters often are semicircular, and their design helps amplify sound, which lets spectators hear performers better, according to online information.

Knox said he thinks the site’s topography would enable the city to establish an amphitheater for less cost than similar projects elsewhere. 

And, “by taking advantage of the natural features, I think you’d have a better quality” amphitheater, Knox said.

“You wouldn’t have to do much work at all” to establish one at the targeted site, he said. “It’s almost a natural amphitheater already.” 

Some amphitheaters have rows of stadium-style seating. Yet the “lay of the land” near the trail is like “a natural stairstep,” Knox said, and that leads him to envision people sitting on the ground, albeit in elevated rows.

Enough land is available that the amphitheater “probably would be big enough to seat a couple of hundred people,” he said. 

The property currently is owned by The Lester Group, to his understanding. 


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