Amphitheater proposed for Fort Steilacoom Park

Local Rotary Club wants to raise $300,000 as its contribution to the structure near Waughop Lake

Staff writerMarch 24, 2014 

A community group is aiming to build an outdoor amphitheater large enough to seat up to 2,500 people at one of the South Sound’s largest regional parks.

The amphitheater is planned for Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, on a natural slope near Waughop Lake.

Its uses would include as a venue for concerts and movies.

The Rotary Club of Lakewood has set its sights on the 340-acre park as the location for its next big community project. It is looking to the city for financial support.

Already the civic club has developed ball fields there, and in 2005 it secured $100,000 and enlisted more than 2,000 volunteers to build a large playground structure.

The club has a goal to raise $300,000 for the new project.

It would be located next to the park’s historic barns. The collapse of one of the century-old barns after a Feb. 12 windstorm was fortuitous for the club.

“We went out to the park to look at the site and there was a barn in the way. The very next day the good Lord saw to blow that building down,” Rotary Club president Mark Blanchard joked with the Lakewood City Council at a March 17 meeting.

The city had allowed the fallen barn to decay, unlike the neighboring barns, and has no plans to restore it.

Rotary members presented the council with a preliminary concept for the amphitheater. The club also asked the city to help with the project, which could cost $600,000.

The council unanimously supported the idea of an amphitheater, but did not discuss funding. The city could apply for grants to help pay for the project.

The amphitheater would fit into the hillside and orient its audience to the south with Mount Rainier as a backdrop, said architect Paul Casey. His company Casey and DeChant Architects donated drawings.

Fitting into existing topography will result in minimal grading and digging, Casey said. Terraces would be shaped to create family-viewing areas. The main floor would hold chairs. The design would reflect nearby farm structures and would include a large covered stage, framework for sound and lights, storage room and green room.

Mary Dodsworth, Lakewood’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services director, said public input will be sought.

“We really want to make sure we’re working with our neighbors,” she said. “We want people to support and be excited about it.”

Councilman Jason Whalen, who’s also a Lakewood Rotary member, said the amphitheater would enhance the park and strengthen its regional draw. The city estimates 1 million people visit the park annually.

Creating a gathering place for summer concerts, outdoor movies, youth theatrical performances, and school and civic events would add to the community, Blanchard said.

“It would help us improve Lakewood’s image in the world as being something more than being on an episode of ‘Cops’,” Blanchard said.

The Rotary Club has raised more than $3 million in its 57 years for various community projects, but the $300,000 needed for the amphitheater is the largest fundraising goal the group has set to date.

The club hopes to secure the majority of its funding at its Sportmen’s Dinner and Auction next month.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467

This story has been edited to reflect the correct annual park attendance.

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