Steamboat Creates looks to city for land where outdoor amphitheater could be built |

Steamboat Creates looks to city for land where outdoor amphitheater could be built

Campers at the Young at Art camp hosted by Steamboat Creates combined gardening, nature and art last summer. (Courtesy photo)

In an effort to provide an open gathering space for local artists to perform and community members to enjoy their work, Steamboat Creates is working with the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department to build an outdoor amphitheater in town.

“It’s really a way of serving that creative community and our whole community throughout the summer,” said Steamboat Creates Development Director Dagny McKinley during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “If you have an amphitheater, anyone is welcome to use it and hangout and meet with other artists or share poetry or dance or whatever they feel inspired to do.”

McKinley said Steamboat Creates has committed to paying for the amphitheater, and the nonprofit is asking the city to donate a place for the facility to be built. However, some council members believe the city should be building housing or a third fire station on any extra land they have.

“We had an earlier discussion about housing, and I don’t know that we have any excess land for something like this,” council member Kathi Meyer said.

Other council members, however, felt land that could be used for an amphitheater may not be appropriate to use for other purposes.

“Maybe I’m missing something, but I can think of a couple places that would be inappropriate for housing but would be appropriate for a project like this,” council member Lisel Petis said. “I don’t know why we would stand in the way of an innovative idea like this.”

While the idea has been in discussions for several years, McKinley and other artists said COVID-19 shutdowns underscored the need for an outdoor creative venue.

“Right now, Strings Music Festival is the only stage in Steamboat that can accommodate our organization,” said Jennifer Robinson, executive director of Steamboat Symphony Orchestra. “An amphitheater would be far less costly than the millions of dollars it would take to build a brick-and-mortar building.”

Council members also brought up concerns about the amphitheater being unusable for months out of the year due to snow and cold weather, but McKinley said the group has factored that in and believes they can either receive grants to install heating sources or plan to not operate during the winter.

“Climate change is giving us more and more days and months during the year where being outdoors is quite enjoyable, and I think weather concerns are not going to be an issue for at least six months of the year,” said Stuart Handloff, who first brought up the idea three years ago. “There is going to be federal money available, grant money available and community money available.”

As for how to continue funding the amphitheater after it is built, McKinley said nonprofits who use the facility would likely sell tickets for their events, and a portion of that revenue would go to upkeep and to pay any employees who would work inside the facility.

“This is something we don’t have here in town,” McKinley said. “We have a lot of hiking trails and biking trails, but we don’t have that central gathering place.”

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