With the warmer months on their way, the town of Dillon is looking to add extra polish to its summer events centerpiece, the Dillon Amphitheatre. The 25-year-old venue hosts a bevy of outdoor performances during the summer evenings, including free concerts, movie nights, dances and civic ceremonies.
The town intends to renovate the amphitheater within the next five years, starting with a master plan completed by Denver-based architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs.
“The amphitheater is just one of those beloved community amenities that is much greater than our town of Dillon,” Marketing and communications director Kerstin Anderson said. “We tried to hold on to qualities that made amphitheater so special but allow for more flexibility and expansion.”
Town council recently gave a preliminary approval to move forward with construction-level drawings of the amphitheater and secure financing for improvements through cash, loans, grants and capital campaigns.
“There are plenty of things we need to do,” Dillon town manager Tom Breslin said. “It needs a facelift, it needs to get ADA compliant, we need restrooms there and we need backstage facilities.”
To start, the master plan include improved restroom facilities, with about seven restrooms total, better ADA accessibility, a less steep grass seating area, wider stairways and increased walkway lighting. In total, the updated amphitheater will be able to host about 3,254 guests — slightly more than before. Every year, the venue draws upwards of 30,000 spectators, Anderson said.
“It’s just a lot of things that need to be updated,” town engineer Dan Burroughs said. “The stage is pretty small; the orchestra barely fits on it. We want a bigger stage to facilitate the orchestra every year.”
The new stage would measure 40 feet by 60 feet, allowing for a larger range of performance acts, and pushed back toward Lake Dillon, to allow for improved sightlines. New facilities, including a permanent box office, concession stand, restrooms and a first aid room will be located between the parking lot and seating bowl. The proposed update would also include better backstage facilities, including two green rooms, a loading area, staging areas and added storage.
“We think it will definitely improve the quality of our concerts,” Breslin said. “A better green room will probably bring in better acts.”
In addition, a decorative enclosure fence is proposed to help control visitor access, allowing for ticketed events. The sound system won’t be changed immediately, as it was recently updated, but may be part of the plan in the long term.
“The overall design is specifically intended to be more contemporary in order to project a progressive image for this essential town asset,” the master plan noted.
Burroughs said while the plan was still in the preliminary stages, construction drawings would help bring in a better estimate of the final price tag.
“Once we get a better handle on the cost, we’ll see what we can afford and where we can build that over next five years,” he said.
The amphitheater renovations are just a piece of Dillon’s capital improvements plan for the next 10 years, Breslin said. Looking at the past nine years, the town spent about $27 million on capital and is budgeting about $28 million for the next 10 years.
Along with the amphitheater, Dillon will also spend significant time and funds on improving Town Park. Breslin said they planned to address the amphitheater over the next three years, and Town Park in 2019 and 2020.
“The investment in the amphitheater is part of a long term plan to invest in public amenities in order to support and encourage redevelopment opportunities in the Town Center,” Mayor Kevin Burns said in a statement. “As part of the 2015 annual retreat, (council) looked at our goal of driving economic redevelopment and determined that the best action we can take currently is to invest in aging public amenities that have a proven track record of providing enjoyment for residents and guests, and that also contribute to the success and sustainability of our town by driving awareness, foot traffic and spending in Dillon.”
For the Dillon Amphitheatre, Breslin said the town would look at a phased approach to construction, ideally conducting work in the fall after the end of the summer concert series and in the spring, before the festivities start for the season.
“We’ll see how that works when we start working with the people who are going to build it,” he said. “We’re just excited to begin this undertaking. The staff’s worked quite hard to put this all together.”