WAITE PARK -- After three years of talking and planning, work on the Waite Park amphitheater is finally ready to begin. The city is transforming an old quarry that was primarily owned by Martin Marrieta into an entertainment site.

City Administrator Shaunna Johnson says it will be done in three phases with the tree removal and excavation work getting done this summer, and construction starting this fall and running through most of next year.

She says when it is done, they plan to draw some household names to the city.

This is what they call a boutique amphitheater.  So you'll see some of the up and coming acts or those that are maybe on their way out.  It will be a very unique setting.  I'd like to see a Beach Boys, or Kid Rock, of some of those kinds of acts.

Johnson says the 15-20 national acts each year will draw 60,000-80,000 visitors to town, which will be a big boost to the local economy.

When we've been doing some rough estimates, this facility has a $10 million economic impact for this region.  And that is significant not just for our community but for the region as well.  I think it's going to spur other development.  I think there's going to be a lot of things that it can do for us.

Johnson says they are working with a management company who will book the national acts for them. Their contract says the company and the city will share in any profits at the end of each year, but if there is a loss that would all be assumed by the management company. She says they have no intention of using property taxes to run it. It is still up in the air in they'll need to hire additional city staff to maintain it.

And, she says beyond the national acts, the potential uses are limitless.

Movies in the park, graduation ceremonies, a corporate sponsored event out here, we could do an international food festival, or yoga, there are all sorts of things.

Johnson says Moorhead and Mankato have similar amphitheaters, and Minneapolis is building one now, but she believes this will be the largest outdoor amphitheater in Minnesota. It is expected to seat between 4,000-5,000 people.

The total cost for the project is expected to be between $10-12 million, with $5 million coming from state bonding money. The rest will come from half-cent sales tax dollars and sponsorships/naming rights.

The trees and the natural surroundings will stay on at least half of the 25-acre site.  There will be about 1,200 parking spaces on what will be a grass parking lot.

Johnson says the final name of the amphitheater has not been decided on yet.

If all goes well the first concert will be in the summer of 2020.  It will be located south of Highway 23, just south of Luther Honda, on the west end of Waite Park.

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