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Murray Journal

Amphitheater remodel takes priority

Dec 01, 2016 04:03PM ● By Tyler Warren

Construction began on the Murray Park Amphitheater the week of Oct. 24. It is scheduled for completion by May 2017. (Tyler Warren/City Journals)

By Tyler Warren | [email protected]

The Murray Park Amphitheater has been a staple in Murray since it was built in 1985. Every year, Salt Lake valley residents flock to see productions such as “West Side Story”, music from the Murray Symphony, as well as cultural and educational events.

“Whether theatrical or music production, it’s a cool place to go,” said Kim Sorenson, director of Murray Parks and Recreation. “It is used every single night that it possibly can be used.”

But the amphitheater hasn’t seen any improvements since its original construction, and is falling behind in key areas. Sorenson said the City had been looking forward to remodeling for years, but was hampered by a slow economy.

Recently the economy has been looking up, which has allowed Murray to seriously look at renovations. Over a planning period that lasted several years, the City received input from patrons, the Cultural Arts Department, Murray Symphony, and other groups that use the theater. When the last production finished for the 2016 season, they were ready to get to work. 

The largest improvement to the amphitheater will be a roof over the stage and orchestra pit.

“In the summer, we have microburst storms that roll in at around three or four in the afternoon and rain out events,” Sorenson said. “The stage can also get very hot, which limits what you can do in the afternoon. If we had a roof, we wouldn’t have to cancel. It would allow us to keep events running.”

Other areas marked for improvement include fixing portions of the seating and stairs that have fallen into disrepair. The lighting and sound booths will need to be replaced with more permanent structures. The facility’s restrooms are also getting a much needed update. And an enclosed dressing room is being built for cast members and performers. Finally, an entire section of seats are being removed and made compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

The City estimated the project would cost $2.2 million. Unfortunately, the lowest bid turned out to be several hundred thousand dollars above that estimate.

Sorenson cited rising construction and materials costs as the chief reason behind the disparity. He said that although costs have risen faster than expected, the project was so important to Murray’s culture that the City didn’t want to leave anything out.

Still, the City had to make room for the project somehow. Facing a $400,000 gap between the funds they had budgeted and the bid, they looked at other projects to delay. 

“We looked at a bunch of other projects we could delay for a year,” said Mayor Ted Eyre. “For instance, the UV filter for our swimming pool. We lived without it for 20 years; we may be able to live without it for 21 years.”

In total, Murray had to delay four projects to make way for the amphitheater improvements. These projects were a park exercise area, a UV system for the outdoor pool, cemetery niche, and the Salt Lake Trail. The Mayor expressed his confidence that pulling funds from other projects would not seriously harm them. 

The Salt Lake Trail, which runs from Murray to Holladay along a canal, is still a go thanks to a roads grant. And more projects could be funded through similar means. Sorenson said the Cultural Arts Department has applied for grant money that could help get these projects back on track by this year. If not, the funds will be allocated on next year’s budget.

“All the projects we delayed are important to us but the amphitheater being what it is we felt like it was a higher priority,” Sorenson said. “This is not a fluff project, it’s a project that needs to happen.” 

Construction on the amphitheater began Oct. 24. Improvements are scheduled to be completed by May, just in time for the 2017 season.