NORTH OGDEN — For now, the Barker Park Amphitheater consists of several white slabs shooting up from a concrete base inside a grassy bowl.
Work has commenced on a proposed $4.3 million upgrade, though, which Mayor Brent Taylor says will transform the open-air facility into a bustling hub of theatrical productions and other arts activities. Ultimately, the plans — part of a larger proposed upgrade of Barker Park — call for some fixed seating, a much larger stage and a structure behind the stage housing dressing rooms, a storage area and more.
“I think this is really a big deal for the city,” Taylor said. The facility — set amid the backdrop of the Wasatch Front — will get people out from in front of their televisions and computers and bring them “together in a natural setting.”
Officials have debated the overhaul in earnest for the past several months and leaders gathered Nov. 15 for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of the first phase of work, to continue into next spring. The day prior, the city council approved the $1.85 million agreement with contractor Wadman Corp. of Ogden to complete the initial work, with a preliminary finish date of May 19, 2018.
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Given the total $4.3 million price tag, the work will be broken into separate phases, giving the city time to raise the necessary funds — from contributions and other outside sources, Taylor hopes. If more funding is secured quickly, the second phase of work could start once the first phase is complete, though Taylor suspects a delay of up to two years to raise the money needed for the next phase.
In any case, once the first phase is done next spring, the upgraded facility — though incomplete — will be usable for theater productions and other events. The new stage should be complete and the shell of the arts structure behind it should be done, even if the interior remains unfinished until the next phase of work.
The concrete terraces immediately in front of the stage will be finished, and though the fixed seats will come later, visitors to events will be able to bring lawn chairs for seating or sit in the grassy area behind that will remain.
“It’s going to be an absolute gem for the community. I’m convinced,” Taylor said. He envisions theater productions, musical performances, school and community events and even shows by traveling performers, among other things.
Mark Daniels, a Weber High School theater teacher who serves on a committee that’s helped fine-tune the amphitheater plans, said North Ogden is lacking in public venues for arts productions. The new-and-improved amphitheater will help fill the void.
“North Ogden is rich with talent. We have such huge support for the arts. I think this will give the community one more space to showcase that,” Daniels said. The planned terrace atop the amphitheater slope, he said, could host a farmers market, perhaps, or even a Christmastime village.
The city has agreed to cover up to $908,000 of the $1.85 million in upgrades in the first phase, if needed. Impact fees from continued housing growth in North Ogden will account for the biggest chunk of city funding, Taylor said, and more will come from a Recreation, Arts, Museums and Parks, or RAMP, grant, funded by a special county sales tax. He also hopes for donations and, perhaps, foundation funding, maybe even a second RAMP grant.