SMCM Planning Amphitheater to Host River Concerts

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (June 26, 2008)—Officials at St. Mary’s College of Maryland say the ever-increasing popularity of the River Concert series, now going on its 10th season, is bringing an increasing array of problems with it.

Its current location on the Town House Green, says Charles “Chip” Jackson, associate vice president of Planning and Facilities, is too small for growing crowds and not safe when it comes to stormy weather conditions.

Also, it is impossible for the college to build an amphitheater on the current site since it would intrude into the buffer of the critical area lands that are designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

So the answer, at least as a proposal right now, is to build a more permanent structure on a piece of land closer inside the campus and farther away from the river, Jackson told The County Times.

“We’ve had to cancel a number of concerts [in previous seasons] just as they’re getting going,” Jackson said Monday. “When a storm comes up there’s no place for people to go to get shelter.”

The newly proposed site would be on a “quad” bounded by Montgomery, Schaeffer and Glendening halls and the college’s athletic center.

“The proposed site provides a large volume of space during a storm,” Jackson said, adding that moving the river concert away from the water means that it could lose some of its appeal.

Some community residents called it a potential loss of the “wow factor” during a June 19 meeting at the college of a newly formed committee to discuss new building projects in and around the campus.

“We acknowledge we’ll lose much of that,” Jackson told The County Times. “When they hear about the proposal, people sometimes ask ‘why would you ever move it?’”

But the safety and space concerns trumped the aesthetically pleasing current site of the popular event which takes place each summer. The River Concert series is paid for by donations from the business community and private citizens and is free of charge to the general public.

“The River Concert series is as much about the community as it is about the college,” said Salvatore Meringolo, vice president for development in the college’s Office of Development. “Everyone has a stake in keeping the River Concert afloat.”

Meringolo said the college currently has $875,000 in construction money from the county and state. The total cost of the project would be about $2 million, he said.

“We’re at about the midpoint of the fund raising cycle,” Meringolo said.

Architects with the firm Martinez & Johnson Architects, based in the District, are currently working feasibility studies for the project.

No firm plans have been adopted as to how the proposed amphitheater and surrounding grounds would be set up.

“It’s an idea that needs to be tested,” Jackson said. “There are no options off the table.”

The River Concert series started June 13 and will run through July 25 with contemporary musicians playing both classical and modern musical pieces.

Jackson estimated that crowds of about 3,000 to 5,000 people attend depending on the concert with as many as 25 vendors setting up as part of the event.


SMCM To Give Public Say in Proposed Amphitheater, June 18, 2008

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