By Jessica Wettig
Senator Dale Fowler attended a meeting, held at the Foreman Depot, on Thursday morning to discuss a proposal for an amphitheater at the Vienna City Park
Those in attendance included: Senator Dale Fowler; Phil Morris, Foreman Depot; Crystal Davenport, Southern Five Planning Commission; Russ Kreuter, Edward Jones; Adam Shoemaker, Shoemaker Construction; Alan Racey, Vienna City Council; Richard Owen, Vienna City Council; and Chesley Williams, active community member.
The city is seeking an Open Space Acquisition and Development Grant (OSLAD) for an amphitheater project—to be placed in park. Davenport said the grant is specifically for park development and land acquisition for public parks and open space.
The grant is affiliated with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and it is for distressed community.
An economically distressed community is an eligible local unit of government located within a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) with a per capita equalized assessed valuation (EAV) less than 60% of the State average and more than 15% of the population below the national poverty level, according to the ILGA website. Other factors play into the qualifications as well.
The grant limit is $400,000 per application, and, when accepted, the department gives you 50 percent of the grant up front. They later reimburse you the other half upon completion of the project. The grant will provide funds for up to 90 percent of the project costs in total.
Davenport said the turnaround time for approval of the grant is about four months. Once approved, they have two years to finish the project—and there are no extensions.
The amphitheater itself will also include bathrooms and showers, which will be convenient for those using the nearby Tunnel Hill State Trail. These facilities will be open all season long.
Morris said having these resources are important. He said people come from far away to use this trail.
“We want them to come back,” he said.
He said as soon as the weather cools off, people will be coming in from all over the country.
Williams said the main usage of these facilities will most likely be from the people visiting the state park.
“People are having good experiences here,” said Morris. “And when they have good experiences, they come back.”
Morris said it’s amazing where people are coming from. He said he met a gentleman recently who said he was embarrassed because he thought that Charleston, where his daughter attended college, was the end of the state.
Morris said the gentleman said he had traveled all over the country, but he had never been to Southern Illinois.
Fowler said he has a great relationship with IDNR, and he has been well aware of this project. He is even working with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to place advertisements on the interstate for the trail.
Davenport said in the past, when applying for a grant like this, community members have designated a date to present a presentation to IDNR. She said that is what needs to be done.
Morris said when they’ve done these presentations in the past, larger communities often have architects laying out plans.
“All we had was a flip chart and a magic marker,” he laughed. “But we got it done.”
Owen said that there are two couples already planning to have their weddings in the amphitheater.
Davenport said they need an accurate, detailed plan to present to IDNR. They need to decide how many bathrooms and showers the amphitheater will have, and what the layout will be.
The deadline for the application is at the end of September.
“This is very doable,” said Fowler. “I am fortunate to have this opportunity. Tourism is a big thing for me.”
Those involved in the project are seeking more support. Many places and people in the area are writing letters of support. To express interest, or obtain more information, contact Crystal Davenport at 618-845-9000.