By Andrew Wig
Richfield’s summer concerts series is expanding this year as the city looks at locations for a potential band shell.
In an effort to identify a site for the building, the outdoor concerts will rotate between two locations in addition to Augsburg Park, which has been the sole site for the performances in recent years. While Augsburg Park will continue to host the concerts each Thursday, a set of additional Wednesday concerts will rotate between Veterans Memorial Park and the under-redevelopment former Lyndale Garden Center site.
“Basically, we’re spending this summer to look closely at the selection,” said Jim Topitzhofer, director of Richfield Recreation.
That department will survey concert attendees and performers to gauge the sites’ viability. Evaluation criteria will include the proximity to parking and restrooms, Topitzhofer said.
Airport noise will also be part of the criteria, “although there’s not a very objective way of measuring that, we’ve found.”
Initial band shell talks centered heavily on Veterans Park, but some have balked at the notion, criticizing the plan because it would remove green space at the park. Opinion at a public meeting in November was equally divided on the preferred site, Topitzhofer said.
At that meeting, several members of the public also rejected the notion of building a band shell at all, criticizing the plan as an unnecessary use of funds in a city that is not an ideal location for outdoor concerts due to airport noise. Richfield Recreation has budgeted $250,000 for a band shell. The rest of the funds would be gained through donations and grants.
Opponents to a band shell at Veterans Park or Augsburg Park have cited plans made by the developer of Lyndale Gardens to construct its own concert venue at the site. There, the vacant Lyndale Garden Center Building will be replaced by new retail, surrounded by a quasi-public space of gardens and pathways, and opponents to a city-owned band shell say the Lyndale Gardens venue would make the city’s plans redundant.
The Lyndale Gardens developer has expressed willingness to collaborate with the city to build a band shell at Lyndale Gardens. The current plans for the concert venue there call for it to be situated along the shore of Richfield Lake.
Topitzhofer and band shell boosters see a band shell as a versatile community resource that could host events such as weddings and other gatherings in addition to concerts, and as a source of revenue through rentals.
The band shell, Topitzhofer said, would also give a boost to the summer concert program itself, which he called “a great community builder” that “has the potential to be a really good and successful program.”
Some say the current site for the summer program, Augsburg Park, is insufficient.
“The venue isn’t great here at Augsburg Park,” Topitzhofer said.
The concerts take place on a small slab of concrete at the base of a depression in the park. “I think people will realize we need a band shell someplace,” said David Butler Jr., who chairs the committee promoting the band shell. Butler is confident the band shell will become a reality, “one way or another.”
For a potential new concert venue, the band shell committee prefers Veterans Park, where attendees would have access to concession and restroom facilities in the adjacent Richfield Ice Arena, but “I think it’s a good move to let the public experience concerts at various sites and see what happens,” Butler said.