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City approves grant application for amphitheater

Photo provided by Three Rivers DDA
Pictured is a rendering of the proposed amphitheater project on the east side of downtown Three Rivers. The Three Rivers City Commission approved applying for a grant from the state to fund the project at their Tuesday meeting.

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

THREE RIVERS — Three Rivers will now be in the running for a grant opportunity from the State of Michigan for a downtown amphitheater project.
The Three Rivers City Commission Tuesday officially approved sending an application for a Community Development Block Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Public Gathering Spaces Initiative, in which the city is requesting $1,953,445 in CDBG funds for the amphitheater project, which the state would cover 90 percent of the project cost.
If the city receives the grant, the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority would need to provide a 10 percent match. The DDA recently approved the framework of an agreement with the city to do so, in which they would borrow the $195,344.50 needed from the city for the match and repay them $13,000 a year for 15 years.
The proposed amphitheater project, as previously reported, would bring a 40-foot by 50-foot steel amphitheater to the east side of downtown, in the grassy area east of the east parking lot on Joshua Drive. It would also include lawn seating for 500 people, additional ADA parking, bathrooms, crosswalks, and storm water basins on each side of the stage. The structure is also slated to be just outside of the 100-year flood plain area near the Portage River.
As previously reported, bringing an amphitheater to the downtown area is a project that has been considered by the DDA for some time, having been first planned and researched in June of 2019, according to DDA Board Chair Andrew George. The amphitheater has also been a part of their Capital Improvements Plan since that time, alongside a proposed dog park project and other various projects.
A decision on whether or not the city will receive the grant is not expected until later this summer. If received, the DDA would have until December 2025 to complete the project.
Only a couple of people spoke on the project during public comment during the public hearing held at the city commission meeting. The first, Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma, said while he supports the project, he wanted to see it placed in a different spot on the west side of downtown, where he said more amenities would be. When asked about where he would put the amphitheater instead of on the east side, he said his ideas were either putting it where the temporary stage for the Water Festival usually is by the fire department, or placing it near Memory Isle Park and removing half of the parking space near the park.
The second public comment came from DDA board chair Andrew George, who said he was “super-happy to work with the city” on the application for the project. He listed out a number of benefits an amphitheater could bring to the city, including providing a dedicated outdoor space for concerts, attracting tourism to the area, increasing foot traffic in downtown, enhancing the cultural offerings of the community, offering a “safe and accessible space” for community gatherings, encouraging outdoor recreation, promotes civic engagement, and can serve as a “catalyst” for more development and revitalization downtown.
In his comment, George also addressed a common complaint made by people on social media about the project, saying that while the city and DDA goes after infrastructure grants frequently, this particular grant opportunity was one they couldn’t pass up.
“I totally feel for the citizens, we all want the roads fixed, we all want our piping fixed, our water lines fixed,” George said. “When you apply for a grant, these are specific to a specific cause, and it’s not like there’s a million grants out there that we’re just picking from. These grants are chosen and we decide whether or not it’s a grant worth pursuing. Obviously, we are pursuing all grants that we can. When infrastructure grants come up, we pursue them. We just don’t want to miss this opportunity; there’s no reason we can’t pursue this grant as well.”
George also mentioned a couple of items that he believed would be possible “good faith” items by the city if they get the grant, mainly infrastructural maintenance of the amphitheater until the DDA pays off the city’s loan and having the DDA get the majority of revenue from renting out the space to help pay off the city loan quicker.
At-Large Commissioner Lucas Allen said approving the application for getting the funds was a “no-brainer,” and mentioning, along with George, that the DDA would have two outstanding debts paid off within the next couple of years, which could lead to more revenue for the agency.
First District Commissioner Pat Dane asked if the DDA considered any other locations for the amphitheater. George said they have done so, but noted that there are “other plans and other ideas” for the Old Hospital site near Scidmore Park, that there’s been “extensive planning” in putting a dog park on the west side near Memory Isle Park, and that $7,200 has already been spent doing architectural renderings for the east side site.
George also mentioned that while there is some infrastructure in place, such as electrical, on the west side of downtown, in this situation, saving money on infrastructure wasn’t as important due to the amount the state would pay for the project.
“Funding isn’t as important as it might be in some other projects, because this is such a huge match that this grant offers, 90 percent [from the state] and 10 percent [from the DDA],” George said. “The real benefit is we’re progressing the town; we’re building it here.”
Dane also mentioned possible difficulties with parking, saying that she “can’t see where you’ll have enough parking spaces for 500 people.” George replied by saying that while parking is going to be a question no matter where they put it, there would be a number of parking options available for attendees. He also noted that HarmonyFest brings over 700 people to downtown, “and they find parking.”
Mayor Tom Lowry Lowry said he supported the project, saying it would be “great” to have another event space in downtown.
“I think it would only add to downtown’s attractiveness,” Lowry said.
The approval of applying for the grant was unanimous.
In other business…

  • Commissioners approved a $14,655 change order to Dore and Associates for removal of an unknown underground storage tank and old construction debris discovered during demolition of the Old Hospital.
  • Commissioners approved a $4,500 change order to Alexander Chemical for a purchase of additional drinking water chlorine. Lowry explained that the change is because when bids were opened for drinking water chlorine in June 2022, they were only valid through Aug. 31, 2022, and prices increased after that date.
  • Commissioners approved a $46,100 purchase order to CT Electric for a lighting replacement project at the Department of Public Services. The vote was 6-1, with Allen dissenting.
  • Commissioners approved a $26,000 purchase order to Cool Breeze Mechanical for an HVAC replacement project at the Department of Public Services.
  • Commissioners awarded a reconstruction project of Fifth Avenue between Portage Avenue and the Portage River bridge to Northern Construction Services Corp. for $549,308 and construction engineering to Fleis & Vandenbrink for $73,000.
  • Commissioners approved the acceptance of a $450,000 Michigan Landbank grant, which will reimburse some of the cost of the Old Hospital demolition project.
  • Commissioners approved changing the chlorine supplier for the Wastewater Treatment Plant from Alexander Chemical to Water Solutions Unlimited, funding the move with $28,000. Lowry explained this is due to Alexander Chemical beginning to charge a $1,000 delivery fee for any day other than Monday and Tuesday.
  • Commissioners heard a presentation from SafeBuilt on their code enforcement service.
  • Hoppin Elementary crossing guard Angie Keith was recognized for five years of service as a crossing guard, and was thanked by Three Rivers Police Department Det. Sam Smallcombe.
    Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or

2 Replies to “City approves grant application for amphitheater

  1. Seriously does Three Rivers need a $2M amphitheater? As the local housing continues to decline there would seem to be much more pressing needs. Also, not mentioned was the annual cost of maintaining this. It’s something that needs to be addressed.

  2. Also, the $200k the city is responsible for might be better used toward the Three Rivers Promise.

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