Sunday, June 1, 2003

Independence may add amphitheater



By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - One of Northern Kentucky's fastest-growing communities may soon add an amphitheater. Independence City Council is expected to award a bid Monday to build a new amphitheater in the city's 26-acre Memorial Park.

"This is something that would really set us apart from other communities," Mayor Chris Moriconi said.

In Northern Kentucky, only Covington has an amphitheater - in Devou Park.

"Independence doesn't have a nice place for events like our annual Fourth of July celebration or our recent rally for the troops," Moriconi said. "This would be a great place for things like concerts, puppet shows and plays."

From 1990 to 2000, the Kenton County city of 15,000 saw its population grow by 43.5 percent, as long-time farms were replaced by subdivisions. Much of that growth was from young families in their 30s with children, Moriconi said.

The Fort Mitchell architectural firm of Robert Ehmet Hayes & Associates has recommended awarding the project to B.L. Spille Construction Inc. The Erlanger company was the lowest of five bidders, with a base bid of $175,000. The total cost would be $202,956 if council approves all five alternative features for the project.

Should council give the go-ahead Monday, construction would start by mid-summer and should be finished by late fall, Moriconi said.

A state grant and private donations will cover the cost of the amphitheater construction, the mayor said. No city tax dollars will be used.

Several young mothers at the Memorial Park playground Friday said they would welcome a new setting for community events.

"An amphitheater would be great," Independence resident Michelle Tyson said. "The city needs more (recreational facilities and programs)." We would definitely make use of it."

Growing up in Independence, Tyson, a 34-year-old mother of two, said there was little for kids to do growing up in the rural community.

Tilli Milton, 36, who lives within walking distance of Memorial Park, said she also would support an amphitheater.

"We moved (to Independence) two months ago because we liked the fact that it was a growing area with a lot of kids," said Milton, the mother of 5-year-old Camryn and 1-year-old Jack. "We lived in a townhouse before, and our kids didn't have any playmates."

"The more children's programs, the better," said Tracy Mahaney, 29, of Taylor Mill. Mahaney said she often brings her sons to southern Kenton County parks for educational programs and recreation.

"Anything that's free and educational is a plus," Mahaney said.

The amphitheater would be built behind the city's new firehouse and senior center. The brick structure would feature many of the same architectural elements as other nearby public buildings, including a burgundy-colored roof like the one at the new firehouse.

Because Spille's bid is well under the $256,000 budgeted for the project, the city should be able to add some extras, like a paved area in front of the amphitheater for people in wheelchairs, Moriconi said.

The amphitheater would be built behind the city's new firehouse and senior center.

The mayor said he also would like to see the city add about 40 parking spaces at Memorial Park, if the amphitheater bids came in low enough.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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