City continues discussion on amphitheater

Amphitheater outside of Chili's and Chipotle on Golden Valley road Thursday afternoon. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

Santa Clarita City Council members received a report Tuesday night and, if opportunity presents itself, will look into a possible partnership for a new amphitheater venue.

The city has no plans to actively pursue such a partnership, but has been looking into an amphitheater as a possible future project.

The process has been ongoing, and something the city has been discussing for a while, officials said Tuesday, sharing background on the project before the City Council meeting.

“This has been a potential plan since 1998,” said Phil Lantis, the arts and events manager presenting the feasibility study to the council.

In the early 2000s, 16 sites were initially considered for the future amphitheater. The criteria specified locations based on environmental impact, proximity to freeways and the cost of grading and construction. For example, if a site is too flat for an amphitheater to be installed, it would cost more to move earth for the amphitheater while having a grassy knoll to serve as an additional seating area.

In the years since, the number of potential sites was whittled down to 12 after thorough examinations, and then reduced again to the five being presented to the council, Lantis said. The amphitheater itself is projected to seat around 3,000 guests with a grassy knoll capable of allowing an additional 3,000 to be seated for performances.

The potential sites include one near Beale’s Cut, a canyon or mining site on the Vulcan Materials Property, and two sites on the Whittaker-Bermite property. City staff would communicate with those property owners about developing partnerships for the amphitheater’s construction, Lantis added.

Input provided at a public summit in February helped to drive the conversation for a future amphitheater, with roughly 600 local residents giving their opinions on the amphitheater’s construction and location.

Among the concerns regarding the amphitheater proposal is the chance it would hurt smaller, local venues that would love to perform for the community, said David Stears, interim theater manager at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.

Stears supports the idea of an amphitheater, noting it would be a wonderful way to grow tourism and positively affect the community. However, directing city staff to develop partnerships could cause competition with existing nonprofits wishing to use the amphitheater in any way, he said.

“I’m concerned that the city’s high profile will muscle out smaller organizations,” he said.

Of the five sites, Stears hopes the one near Beale’s Cut is chosen, referring it as the “gateway to our community” and “great because people outside can get to it easy and it won’t impact traffic.”

While capacity is a known issue, performing groups using the amphitheater would be able to arrange seating depending on the size of a show’s turnout. This way, an event can be formatted to not feel empty with the use of balconies and arranged seating, Lantis said, contrasting it to the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center.

Stears suggested the Rivendale Park and Open Space’s plan for an amphitheater by Towsley Canyon would serve as an ideal spot for the city, but Lantis said this project would be separate from that plan.

The city’s Arts Commission hired AEA Consulting in November to conduct the study. The city has not set a deadline for when the project would be completed, but previously city officials noted that, as the project is not part of the city’s 2020 plan, construction, if approved, may not start before then.

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