STOW — What’s in a name?
Quite a bit, according to Stow city officials.
City leaders on Monday gave an update on the early plans for the construction of an amphitheater and the installation of a play trail at the City Center property along Louis A. Dirker Jr. Boulevard between Graham and Darrow (Route 91) roads. They noted the "d" word is no longer being used in connection with the proposal.
"Now, it is not a downtown plan," emphasized Linda Nahrstedt, director of the city’s parks and recreation department. "It’s a City Center plan. We have realized that a lot of people have opposition to downtown [with] the buildings, bars and all of that. We moved away from that plan."
Mayor John Pribonic added that when people hear the word "downtown," they envision "traffic congestion [and] buildings."
Pribonic said his vision for the site is to "involve families," and added he felt the amphitheater and play trail are "very pivotal." He noted officials are starting with these two pieces because they "pertain really to everybody."
A rendering of the proposed amphitheater and play trail will be released in about a month, according to Pribonic.
Money is being raised to cover the cost of the amphitheater and play trail. Nahrstedt said community organizations and local businesses have pledged about $200,000 for the amphitheater so far. The amphitheater is projected to cost $400,000 and the play trail anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000, according to Nahrstedt.
Nahrstedt said while the Stow-Munroe Falls Community Foundation will not be directly involved in the planning and design process, she said her department "will work cooperatively with [the Foundation] and the city’s finance department regarding sponsor donations we receive for the project."
Pribonic said he expects to have money raised for the amphitheater by the end of May.
"As soon as we have that money, we’re going to move forward," said Pribonic.
Pribonic noted the amphitheater would be located in an area near an unpaved parking lot along Louis A. Dirker Jr. Boulevard.
Once that parking lot is paved, Chief of Staff Nick Wren estimated there will be 40 to 50 parking spaces available. Wren said there are also 188 parking spaces in three other city lots on the site, but noted that about 20 of those spots would not be available to the general public. He said the remaining spaces — some of which are not available to the public during business hours on weekdays — would be available to the public in the evenings and on weekends. Wren added there are 52 public parking spaces next to the former SKiP playground.
Although she did not have precise measurements available, Nahrstedt said the amphitheater would be the same size as the one in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. She added that music concerts, children’s activities, family events and movie nights are among the programs envisioned at the amphitheater.
Nahrstedt noted the play trail will contain "multiple playground pieces that kind of winds through the upper part of the amphitheater area."
After the money is raised for the amphitheater, funds would then be raised for the play trail, Pribonic said.
"I’d love to have the money raised by the end of this year to where like next spring [or] summer, we have really the full package of what we’re talking to people about," said Pribonic. ‘We want to make it a whole experience for people when they come there."
He added, "Whatever we can get done this year, we’ll start on it."
The mayor said the amphitheater and play trail will be situated close to one another so that families can enjoy both at the same time.
Residents will "still be able to enjoy what’s going on at the amphitheater, but also let their kids still enjoy the play trail area," said Pribonic.
Nahrstedt said officials would be using the arts commission as either a focus group for the City Center project or to solicit input from the community.
Pribonic noted the arts commission will play a "big part of [finding out] what do people want to see in our city?" The mayor noted the arts commission would examine what type of programming would be offered. The parks and recreation board would examine what type of equipment would be offered along the play trail.
The mayor emphasized there is "still plenty of property" available at the City Center site and noted the amphitheater and play trail will not be the only two components of the endeavor.
"We’re taking small steps," Pribonic said. "We don’t want to become overwhelming for people."
Pribonic said he wants to hear from residents on what other features they would like to see at the City Center site.
"There could be different things out there right now that haven’t even been discussed," said Pribonic. "It’s a workable, fluid plan."
The mayor said the city’s boards and commissions will reach out to residents during the next few months to find out what else they would like to see at the site.
"It’s not [about] what the administration wants or what I want," said Pribonic. "It is what the people want ...we need to go ahead and reflect what our community is."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.