The Volunteer Park Amphitheater, a crumbling concrete-and-brick stage used for performances and events, needs major upgrades to meet evolving community needs.
Volunteer Park Trust will demolish the current structure and replace it with a thoughtfully designed modern facility that includes full ADA accessibility, a roof, all-gender bathrooms, storage space, and a resilient stage floor that will even accommodate dance.
When not in use, the back wall will swing open revealing pass-through views of the beautiful Olmsted landscape and turning the stage into an attractive community gathering space.
Case for Support
Download our beautiful Case for Support (1.3Mb pdf file) and see why the construction of the Volunteer Park Amphitheater is so important for our community and the entire region.
Updated Schematic Designs
Click here to view a pdf of the most recent Schematic Designs for the Volunteer Park Amphitheater.
Community Meeting in January 2019
Thank you to the nearly 40 people who attended our Volunteer Park Amphitheater Community Meeting hosted by Seattle Parks and Recreation at Miller Community Center (330 19th Ave E, Seattle, 98112) on Thursday, January 31, 2019.
Project Funding Boost
The Volunteer Park Amphitheater Project received a powerful jump-start with the confirmation of major funding from multiple sources.
Seattle Park 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. Add to this the $200,000 raised in 2015-2017 to pay for the early outreach and design phases of this project, and it brings the total raised to $1.7 million, or 57% of the total $3 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 $1.3 million. Construction on the new amphitheater is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020.
The Current Performance Stage
Volunteer Park’s nearly 50-year-old amphitheater is outdated and is no longer meeting the needs of our community:
- The concrete stage surface is inappropriate and unsafe for many dancers and performers, limiting many to using the lawn as a stage.
- Poor acoustics hinder the experience for performers and audiences. Without a roof, sound is easily broadcast into the neighborhood.
- No protection from the elements for performers, stage sets, equipment, and instruments limits use of the space.
- An unsafe atmosphere is maintained where the solid walls hide illegal activities. The bathrooms are unsafe and remain locked for most of the year.
- Lack of accessibility causes people with disabilities great difficulty both in getting onstage and simply attending events.
Meeting Community Needs
This project will replace the current structure with a new, covered stage, expanding the use of the outdoor performance space. The new amphitheater will:
- Broaden performance diversity by accommodating theater, film, music, spoken word, and multimedia performances. The new amphitheater will be the only public venue in Seattle specifically designed to accommodate outdoor dance performances.
- Improve conditions for performers as a more fully equipped performance location with built in amenities for sound rigging and stage production.
- Build meaningful connections through diverse community gatherings to inspire greater understanding among residents of all ages and backgrounds.
- Improve accessibility through ADA-compliant pathways and backstage access as well as dedicated space for audience members in wheelchairs.
- Upgrade acoustics and reduce noise by using design strategies that direct sound to the audience rather than into the neighborhood.
- Improve the space for daily park use with safe public restrooms and a covered stage to support informal activities, such as yoga classes or school groups.
- Honor the philosophy of the park’s designers, the famous Olmsted Brothers, by providing open space for all and continuing free-of-charge public performances.
Encouraged by Community Support
Volunteer Park Trust spent nearly four years engaging with the community to envision an improved Volunteer Park amphitheater.
Participants in the planning process have included neighbors, Volunteer Park stakeholders (including Seattle Asian Art Museum and Friends of the Conservatory), the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Friends of Seattle Olmsted Parks, civic leaders and more than 30 community groups and arts organizations.
The amphitheater design and project goals are shaped by input from these diverse community members. They expressed overwhelming support for the amphitheater to become a regional destination for the arts and a vibrant community gathering place.
See our list of community organizations participating in Volunteer Park Amphitheater planning.
We have also received letters of support from the following organizations:
- Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services
- Allied Arts Foundation
- Associated Recreation Council
- Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce
- Capitol Hill Community Council
- Denny Triangle Neighborhood Association
- Eastlake Community Council
- Fremont Arts Council
- Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks
- Georgetown Community Council
- Greater Seattle Business Association
- Modern Enterprises (Minority-owned production company)
- Mount Baker Neighborhood Center for the Arts
- Northeast District Council
- Othello Park Alliance
- Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council
- Queen Anne Community Council
- Rainier Beach Community Club
- Seattle Parks Foundation
- South Park Neighborhood Association
If your community organization would like to support this project as well, here is some project information:
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.
We are 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 inital schematic designs for the new Amphitheater approved by community groups, performance companies, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and by Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board.
2018 – Achieved $1.5 million in initial funding with a $900K grant from Seattle Parks District’s Major Projects Challenge Fund, $415K from Seattle Parks and Recreation, and $185K in private donations and pledges. Began work to launch a capital campaign in 2019.
2019 – Developed our Case for Support and formed a Capital Campaign Cabinet. We are now making requests for funding.
For detailed information, read our history below.
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 2017, Volunteer Park Trust commissioned a feasibility study to determine next steps for mounting a capital campaign.
PART V: Marketing, Project Completion, and Public Funding — In 2018, Volunteer Park Trust conducted a marketing campaign to promote our successes in Volunteer Park and increase public awareness of our projects.
We completed two mid-sized capital projects to instill further confidence in our project management skills: The Volunteer Park Lighting Project and the Lily Pond Fencing.
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.
Project in the News
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 email@example.com.
PAST PUBLIC MEETINGS:
Thursday, January 31, 2019, 7-8PM. Public Meeting to present updates to the schematic design for the Amphitheater. — COMPLETED
Thursday, April 6, 2017, 5-7PM. Public Meeting to present the 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
- Download our Case for Support
- Here is a link to the 2018 updated schematic designs at Seattle Parks and Recreation
- Download the 2017 initial schematic design (48 pages, 8.64mb) Amphitheater Project Schematic Design: Phase II
- Download the “concept design” Amphitheater Project Schematic Design: Phase I Final Report (9mb pdf) or click here to view the Schematic Design: Phase I Final Report in Dropbox.
- Final Report: Feasibility Study & Design Program
- October 15, 2015 Public Meeting: Presentation Materials & Public Comments (10 mb PDF file, 52 pages)
- December 2015 Project Update: Click here
- Download the full RFQ for the Performance Space to learn more
- Download Volunteer Park City Landmark Nomination
- Architectural Team Hired: Read the latest Amphitheater Press Release
- Amphitheater Public Meeting article: Capitol Hill Blog
- Volunteer Park Amphitheater Booking Report 2013-2017