Amphitheater Project

Image: Amphitheater Design

The Volunteer Park Amphitheater Project received a powerful jump-start with the confirmation of major funding from multiple sources.

Seattle Parks District’s Major Projects Challenge Fund has approved a $900,000 grant, and Seattle Parks and Recreation has confirmed an additional $415,000 in funding for the new facility’s public restrooms.

We have also received early pledges of $185,000 in private donations, bringing the total raised to $1.5 million, or just over 55% of the total $2.7 million needed.

Volunteer Park Trust has contracted with Shamra Clark Consulting Group to start the planning phase of a year-long capital campaign to raise the remaining $1.2 million. Construction on the new amphitheater is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020.

Click here to donate to the Amphitheater Project!




Helping Racial Equity in Seattle

Volunteer Park Trust has done extensive research on which populations use Volunteer Park. We found that just under 22% of all park users come from underserved communities.  Most importantly, we found that 40% of the people attending the Volunteer Park Amphitheater in 2017 came to events either produced by organizations based in underserved populations (neighborhoods such as Rainier Valley, the Central District, etc.) or clearly serving ethnic and underserved populations, such as social justice rallies, hip hop performances, etc.

The condition of the current Volunteer Park Amphitheater directly and disproportionately affects ethnic and underserved communities. Well-funded organizations can compensate for the Amphitheater shortcomings by paying for such amenities as tents and temporary structures to create storage/dressing space and provide protection from the weather; sound equipment; portable power distributors; portable access ramps; and use of the facility restrooms.  The expense of these solutions for marginalized organizations has a far greater negative impact.

This new Amphitheater will help promote racial equity in Seattle by providing a public performance facility that 1) does not need costly private augmentation to function at its full capacity, 2) serves a substantial population of ethnic and underserved communities, and 3) has been specifically designed based on the stated needs of these communities and performance groups.

Volunteer Park Trust is proud of the city-wide community support for this project. We have received letters of support from the following organizations:

If your community organization would like to support this project as well, here is some project  information:

We are also proud of our Amphitheater Project accomplishments to date, with thanks to funding from Seattle Department of Neighborhoods:

2015 – Hired project leads ORA Architects and Walker Macy Landscape Architects and completed the Feasibility Study & Design Program  with extensive outreach to neighbors, park users, the general public, and over 30 performance and community groups.

2016 Completed the conceptual schematic designs for new Amphitheater.

2017 – Completed final schematic design for the new Amphitheater approved by community groups, performance companies, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and by Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board.

In 2017 Volunteer Park Trust commissioned a Capital Campaign feasibility study. Our campaign consultants recommended that we expand our Steering Committee, secure public funding, expand our brand recognition as effective and accomplished park stewards, build the Trust donor base, and emphasize our partnership with Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM).

We took that advice to heart, and here is what we’ve accomplished so far:

  • Secured a commitment from Seattle Parks and Recreation for public funds in the $700,000-800,000 range.
  • Met with State Senator Jamie Pedersen, who agreed to work with us to identify $250,000-$500,000 in state funds.
  • Added a marketing chair to our Steering Committee who is helping us build our brand and public exposure.
  • Initiated a design review with our architect to find cost savings.
  • Identified and launched two tangible projects that demonstrate our effective project management and fundraising skills: replacing the Lily Pond fencing and upgrading the park lighting.

.In addition, we continue to:

  • Seek broader overall support as well as significant lead donors who will help us to launch a full-fledged campaign.
  • Work closely with SAAM, collaborating on events in the park and co-creating solutions to keep people engaged in Volunteer Park during its renovation.
  • Actively recruit for new Steering Committee members.

With its broad lawns, historic buildings, central location, and ample parking, Volunteer Park is a city-wide destination for gatherings, concerts, rallies, and celebrations.  The new Amphitheater will be ADA-accessible and support a wide range of performances including plays, concerts, classical music, spoken word — and it will be the only outdoor venue in Seattle to support dance.

Do you want the Volunteer Park Amphitheater Project to succeed?

For questions or more information contact Jeff Rinedahl:

Amphitheater Project History

PART I: Feasibility Study —  In 2015, Volunteer Park Trust received a grant from the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Small and Simple Grant program to explore the feasibility of improving or rebuilding the amphitheater stage structure. We used the funding to assess what will be needed to improve the space – things like a better sound system technology, upgraded public restrooms, or a regraded lawn – to attract performers and audiences.

Led by our competitively chosen consulting team of ORA Architects and Walker Macy Landscape Architects, over 30 performance groups and community organizations were interviewed for their feedback on what they’d like to see in a new Amphitheater.  Consultants were hired to research and address issues such as parking, traffic, and noise/acoustics.  Two public meetings were also held to gather input from park neighbors and the general public.

Some interesting results came out of the study, including the recommendation for moving the structure to a site slightly northwest of the current location, the inclusion of a green room that can be used for community classroom and exhibition space, and the need for a roof.

Download and read the final, 90-page pdf:  Feasibility Study & Design Program

PART II:  Schematic Design: Phase I (formerly titled “Concept Design”)  In 2016, Volunteer Park Trust received a 2nd grant from the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Small and Simple Grant program to develop conceptual design.  Scheduled to last through August, this phase is using the information and recommendations from the Feasibility Study to develop preliminary conceptual drawings.  A public meeting presenting four concept designs was held on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, 6-8PM at Miller Community Center. You can read about the meeting in the Capitol Hill Times here and in the Capitol Hill Blog here.

Download the Amphitheater Project Schematic Design: Phase I Final Report (formerly titled “Concept Design”)(9mb pdf file) or click here to view the Schematic Design: Phase I Final Report in Dropbox.

PART III: Schematic Design: Phase II — In 2016, Volunteer Park Trust received a generous 3rd grant from the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Small and Simple Grant program to partially fund the development of schematic designs.  This phase was completed in late 2016.

Download the Amphitheater Project Schematic Design: Phase II Final Report (48 pages, 9mb pdf file).

PART IV: Capital Campaign Feasibility Study — In early 2017, Volunteer Park Trust commissioned a feasibility study to determine if the timing was right to begin fundraising for the project.  The study was completed in June, 2017 and determined that the Trust had further work to do before beginning a major fundraising campaign.

PART V: Marketing and Public Funding — For the next year (2017-2018), Volunteer Park Trust will:

  • Conduct a marketing campaign to promote our successes in Volunteer Park
  • Increase public awareness of our projects
  • Promote the city’s need for a new Amphitheater in Volunteer Park

Arts in the Park for Over a Century

Centrally located on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, Volunteer Park is the most complete and well‐preserved example of the Olmsted Brothers’ landscape design among Seattle city parks. It is often referred to as the crown jewel of Seattle’s Olmsted‐designed park system. The park plays a dual role as a citywide destination park and as a neighborhood park in one of Seattle’s most prominent and densely populated neighborhoods. Despite a few notable changes over the past century Volunteer Park retains its overall integrity. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and it is a city landmark, which confers significant protection for identified “contributing” park features.

From the beginning, Volunteer Park has contained structures to accommodate outdoor performances. In 1915, the city built a bandshell on the north side of the reservoir, at the site of the current stage. It was a wooden structure designed by prominent local architects Bebb & Gould. This structure was razed in 1947 and not replaced until 1971, when landscape architect Rich Haag designed the existing brick bandstand. At that time, the lawn in front of the stage was regraded to form an amphitheater.

Historical Park Photos

Photos: (left) Carl Gould-designed bandshell, built in 1915, used for 1932 Flag Day celebration. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, Item No. 30482. (right) Volunteer Park concourse, with original bandstand at center of pergola on right, 1910. Photo by Frank H Nowell. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, Item No. 30473.

An Amphitheater for the Future

The current performance space in Volunteer Park is in need of improvements that will allow it to meet the community’s evolving needs. The original Olmsted performance space, along the concourse, was designed for musical performances, as was the 1915 structure located at the site of the current performance space.

Today, a multitude of groups use the performance space for a wide variety of performances, presentations, and community gatherings. They are challenged by a wide range of problems, including inadequate acoustics for music and theater productions, no protection from the elements for performers, equipment, or instruments, no storage or costume changing space, no lighting, substandard restroom facilities, the inappropriate surface for dance performances, and no safe access for the disabled on stage or in the audience.

Current Amphitheater & Project Sign

Project in the News

Get Involved!

Send us an email, come to upcoming Trust events and talk with volunteers working on the project. We want to build enthusiasm and support for this project!


If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Trust at


Thursday, April 6, 2017, 5-7PM.  Public Meeting to present the final schematic design for the Amphitheater. — COMPLETED

ORA Architects presented scale models and storyboards of the revised schematic design for public comment and feedback.  Many thanks to the Volunteer Park Conservatory for hosting this event!

Thursday, December 8, 2016 6-8PM at our Holiday in the Park event. — COMPLETED

ORA Architects presented scale models and storyboards of the schematic design for public comment and feedback. Over 100 people came to hear more about the Amphitheater Project and give their thoughts and opinions.

Thursday, December 8, 2016 1-2:00PM at the office of ORA Architects — COMPLETED

Thank you to everyone who attended the Focus Group for artists and performance groups to get community feedback for Phase III: Schematic Design.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016  6-8:00PM at Miller Community Center — COMPLETED

Thank you to everyone who attended our public presentation of four possible Concept Designs for the Volunteer Park Amphitheater. Your opinions and comments count!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 6-8:00 pm at Miller Community Center — COMPLETED

Amphitheater Project lead ORA Architects presented the DRAFT Feasibility Report & Design Study containing findings and recommendations from their months of community outreach and study.  YOUR public comments will be included in the final published version of this report.  Thank you for being a part of this amazing project and letting us know your ideas and thoughts.

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 6-8:30 pm at SAAM Auditorium — COMPLETED

Thank you for sharing your ideas for the Amphitheater and hearing what the consultants have learned so far about constraints and possibilities.  Read the 52-page PDF presenting the meeting Agenda, Presentation, Notes, and Public Comments here:  Presentation Materials & Public Comments

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Project Materials

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