St. C. lands amphitheater grant

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – It was a big day for the St. Clairsville Recreation Department, the city and its residents.

Sean Logan, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, was in St. Clairsville to personally hand recreation director Kevin Barr a check for $70,000.

The money is in the form of a Federal Land and Water Conservation Grant, one of only 11 distributed in the State of Ohio this year.

An amphitheater will be built with the money on the site of the former Belmont County Fairgrounds, giving the rec department a formal venue for its summer concert series.

But according to Barr, that’s not the only event the new amphitheater will be utilized for. He’s envisioning an entire series of concerts, festivals and community events for continue moving the St. Clairsville community in the right direction.

“We’re looking to have a blues festival, a barbecue festival, an Oktoberfest,” Barr said. “And we’re hoping the school can use it similar to like the Brooke Hills Players for theater events.”

Barr was the driving force behind the planning and seeking of the grant, but as he pointed out during the presentation, there were many people to thank.

He first got the idea when visiting Mason, Ohio after taking in its Sunshine Concert Series at Corwin M. Nixon Park. He wanted to bring free, musical entertainment for families to St. Clairsville.

And that’s just what St. Clairsville has done the last five years. But something was missing. The musical acts were playing on the back of flatbed trucks parked on the running track while the audience sat in the stands at Red Devils Stadium.

Now with the amphitheater, the city will have a dedicated site that can be utilized for a number of activities, which is exactly what the city plans to do.

A perfect example to follow is the Veterans’ Memorial Amphitheater in Wheeling, which after completion, became the home to numerous festivals and events and in turn, brought increased business and traffic into the city. The hope is the same can be done for St. Clairsville.

And for Logan, approving St. Clairsville’s grant application was a no-brainer.

“St. Clairsville is a well-respected community,” Logan said. “We know when we receive a grant application from (St. Clairsville), it’s good to be for a good idea and it will be well supported.

“We know we’re making a good investment.”

This is a matching grant and the city’s portion will be covered through in-kind services by Don Smithberger and the St. Clairsville Electric Department.

Barr said he’s set a target dedication date of June 1 and is already in talks with numerous musical acts about playing for the 2011 concert series.

“There’s a lot of work that’s been done just to get to this point,” said Dennis Bigler, the service director for the city. “It was a dream of the Mayor (Robert Vincenzo) to these 30 some acres of open space for public use and this just shows what can happen.”

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