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University amphitheater undergoes multiple construction projects

Seating remains open to student use while the stage has been closed off

The front stage and the area directly in front of it are closed to student use, but the larger amphitheater area and seating is open to students.
The front stage and the area directly in front of it are closed to student use, but the larger amphitheater area and seating is open to students.

Students walking through Grounds may have recently noticed that the Amphitheater, a center for students to relax between classes, enjoy nearby food trucks and even perform with musical groups, is currently under construction. The three-stage renovation project in the heart of Grounds has an anticipated completion date of mid-January. 

The three stages include a renovation on the exterior stucco of the Amphitheater and roofing and drainage upgrades — the exterior stucco portion is currently in progress, and the final stages will be completed through the rest of the semester.  

With materials dating back to 1921, the original layer of stucco on the structure has cracked and degraded over time and the roof has leaked for the past few years, project manager Amy Moses said. An additive coat of plaster installed in the 1990s likely led to the further degradation of the original stucco. 

“We plan to repair the original render and coat it in some fashion, but we are still determining the best methodology as we uncover the underlying conditions,” Moses said. 

The front stage and the area directly in front of it are closed to student use, but the larger amphitheater area and seating is open to students.

In addition to serving as a gathering place for students eating lunch or relaxing between classes, the amphitheater hosts countless University events, from outdoor performances by acapella groups to Jack Harlow’s appearance fall 2021.

The project team is currently determining if events that were scheduled prior to the project can still take place. No new events are to be scheduled at the amphitheater for the duration of the project. 

The roofing portion of the construction portion will begin in October and will include the addition of an underlayer to decrease the risk of leakage. The drainage will be the final section of the project, currently slated to begin November. This section of the project will primarily focus on the area in front of the stage that often grows muddy after rain and large events.

All three portions are scheduled to be “substantially complete” by the middle of January, Moses said. 

The Amphitheater has undergone various construction and restoration projects over the years — most recently in 2014 when iit underwent concrete and stone treatment and the installation of three new cast stone balusters. 

First-year College student Mikayla Wolf, who frequently walks by the Amphitheater to get to nearby classes in Old Cabell Hall, said that the construction could possibly interfere with the University landscape.

“I think it could be a disturbance to the overall aesthetic of [the University],” Wolf said. “Just thinking and seeing all this construction, you're just like, why?”

Known formally as the McIntire Amphitheatre, the area was originally designed by architect Fiske Kimball. In the early 1920s, Paul Goodloe McIntire, namesake of the McIntire School of Commerce, contributed $120,000 to the University for the funding of the Amphitheater construction.

Ongoing construction at the University and on central Grounds over the past several years — like major renovation projects at Brown Residential College and the years-long Alderman Library renovation — have led to some complaints of increased noise levels and accessibility challenges from students.

Alderman Library has been closed for renovations since spring 2020 with a tentative opening scheduled for after Thanksgiving break. Additional projects near Grounds include construction for the new Contemplative Commons building, which will be used for both academic activities and extracurricular events — construction began in 2021 and may be completed this academic year.

First-year College student Abem Nida, who also must walk past the Amphitheater to get to buildings in Central Grounds, said that the construction in combination with other projects may have negative short-term effects but are worthwhile investments.

“'It's not the only construction [project] happening,” Nida said. “I think it can deter people that just are sensitive to noise, but also it shows visitors there's [projects] happening and [the University is] trying to change in a good way.”