Friday, September 26, 2008

FLORIDA TIMES UNION:: For revamped ampitheater, it's on with the show

Last modified 9/6/2007 - 8:32 pm
Originally created 090807

For revamped ampitheater, it's on with the show

By My St. Johns Sun

It's showtime at the new St. Augustine Ampitheatre.

Those words have been in the making for at least six years.

They meant something special last weekend when the newly revamped facility celebrated its grand opening.

About 700 people came out for a free Friday night movie on a 32-foot screen, and a music festival featuring a variety of bands on Sunday drew about 2,100 people, said Ryan Dettra, marketing and promotions manager for the facility.

The curtain call had been a long time in coming for the amphitheater adjacent to Anastasia State Park off Florida A1A.

The amphitheater originated in 1965 in celebration of the city's 400th birthday. For 32 years, the facility hosted the state's official play, The Cross & the Sword. In more recent years, the grounds are best known for events such as a Gamble Rogers Folk Festival, a Greek festival and a farmers market.

Plans for an overhaul of the 42-year-old facility unfolded in 2001, and groundbreaking happened in 2003. But the $8.7 million project took longer than initially anticipated because of higher-than-expected costs and other funding issues.

The amphitheater now includes a new stage, more concessions and 3,586 fixed seats with a vinyl canopy that covers about three-fourths of them. Another 1,000 seats can be added, if needed.

"Everybody who remembers the old facility and hasn't seen this yet is blown away," Dettra said. "Everything is completely new."

The state owns the 16-acre site and the county leases it. The county considered having a private management company operate the facility but later opted to run it itself.

Fall events include free movies every other Friday and a free concert on Oct. 15 by the U.S. Air Force Band. A Winter Wonderland to include snow and an ice rink will run from after Thanksgiving through Jan. 6.

It's good to have the amphitheatre back and better than ever.

It not only enhances the entertainment venues for St. Johns County but the region as well.

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