Thursday, September 23, 2021

Groundbreaking Held for ‘Phil Morris’ Amphitheater

On October 6, State Senator Dale Fowler was joined by Vienna Mayor Jon Simmons, Director of Tourism for the City of Vienna Phil Morris, and Brian Ziegler, Owner of Clarida & Ziegler Engineering Co., to break ground on the highly-anticipated amphitheater project in the Vienna Community Park.

The building, which will be over 1,000 square feet and sit near the entrance to the park, will be an over $400,000 investment in the City of Vienna and Johnson County as a whole. An accompanying bathhouse will sit next to the completed theater.

“This has been a project initiative that the Vienna Community Park and local officials have been pursing for several years, and I’m excited to have been able to help secure these grant funds for this amphitheater project,” said Senator Fowler. “The amphitheater project will benefit the 70,000 individuals who visit the area each year, spurring economic development and creating a site location that has numerous uses to a very popular visitor area in Southern Illinois.”

Senator Fowler helped obtain two grants for the amphitheater project, totaling $115,000. Grant funding will be used to construct an ADA-accessible amphitheater. Funding will specifically be directed toward the design, engineering, materials and labor costs associated with the development of the amphitheater.


Ground is broken on the newly-dedicated Phil Morris Amphitheater on Tuesday. Pictured, left to right, Brian Ziegler, Clarida and Ziegler Engineering Co., State Representative Patrick Windhorst, State Senator Dale Fowler, Tourism Director Phil Morris, Mayor Jon Simmons, Vienna City Aldermen Richard Owen, Austin Tuey and Alan Racey, and Flo Dunning.


“The addition of the amphitheater is not only a great asset for the residents of Vienna, but it’s also another opportunity to bring visitors to the community as well,” said Mayor Simmons. “We greatly appreciate the support of the State of Illinois and Senator Fowler for making this project a reality.”

“Not only will this amphitheater provide a facility that has so much potential for the Vienna Community Park, but it will also benefit Tunnel Hill State Park and its numerous visitors as the parks are adjacent to each other,” said Senator Fowler. “Especially given the uptake in tourism and visitors to the area who are seeking safe, outdoor recreation during this pandemic time, this project is an ideal investment in Southern Illinois.”

“This project has been 20 years in the making, and it’s a day that many of us are ecstatic to see come true,” said Tourism Director Phil Morris. “This venue has the potential to be a local and regional draw. We can envision historical reenactments, marriages, graduations and many, many more events taking place here. Senator Fowler has been crucial in bringing the amphitheater to life and we thank him for his efforts.”

Morris, who has been the biggest champion of the amphitheater project for over two decades, is set to retire at the end of the year. In recognition of his efforts on the project and his lifelong dedication to Johnson County tourism and culture, Senator Fowler unveiled the design of the new building alongside a new name, the Phil Morris Amphitheater.

Even after years of work that included trips to Springfield and dozens of meetings, Morris was still excited to talk about the possibilities of the amphitheater and to convert potential nay-sayers. “People asked us, when we wanted to build this park, ‘why would you build it in a swamp?’ Well, it’s not a swamp today,” Morris said. “They used to say no one would want to ride their bikes on a railroad track, but [the Tunnel Hill Trail] today is world famous.”

After the reveal, Senator Fowler and State Representative Patrick Windhorst were joined by Morris and Mayor Simmons, alongside members of the Vienna City Council, in breaking ground on the project.

The amphitheater project is expected to be completed by January 2021.

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