Public gives its take on Youngstown amphitheater project

The $8.9 million project has been in the works for a couple of years

Youngstown's downtown amphitheater project is being called the city's Central Park.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The city of Youngstown is getting closer to building an amphitheater downtown. On Thursday, city leaders received input from the public.

The $8.9 million project has been in the works for a couple of years.

It includes a 3,500 plus-seat amphitheater — next to the Market Street Bridge where Wean United once stood — a park, water fountain, and a walkway to the Covelli Centre. There are also plans to create an entertainment district from Phelps to Commerce streets, with new lighting and retail space.

William D’Avignon, director of community development, said the project will enhance the revitalization of the downtown area as well as create more economic growth.

The money to fund the project will come from several sources, including a $4 million federal loan to be paid back over 20 years. Some of the money will come from block grants.

D’Avignon said the city currently spends block grant money on street surfacing, housing assistance programs, public service programs and other improvements. Some of the loan payment for the amphitheater would come out of that fund.

“It’s going to make the budgets a little tighter under those programs,” D’Avignon said.

Youngstown City Finance Director David Bozanich said the city has paid off all of their previous debt, which makes the amphitheater more affordable.

“You will not see any decrease on city surfaces because of the amphitheater project,” he said. “There will be zero negative impact on city surfaces.”

A public meeting on the amphitheater took place Thursday evening inside the community room at Covelli Centre.

There were questions.

D’Avignon was asked how the change in administration in Washington will impact the project. He answered that Congress has historically saved the program and he expects the same to happen here.

When asked if the amphitheater will be friendly to musical acts that are native to the city, D’Avignon said he hopes so.

One woman wanted access to the amphitheater for the city’s young residents with no money.

Sharon Letson of Youngstown CityScape questioned spending so much money on an amphitheater, and less on public service and housing.

Former Wilson High theater director Bob Vargo wants JAC management — which runs the Covelli Centre — to also run the amphitheater.

JAC CEO Eric Ryan was there. He called the meeting fantastic.

“Nobody stood up and said, ‘Absolutely not, don’t do it,'” Ryan said. “That was encouraging wasn’t it?  And I think at the end of the day, we’re going to look back in 10 years and say, ‘Wow what a great decision it was.'”

The project is scheduled to be complete by summer 2018.


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