New amphitheater structure proposed for Robbins Island Regional Park in Willmar

·4 min read

Aug. 6—WILLMAR

— If all goes as planned, there will be a unique, two-stage amphitheater structure at Robbins Island Regional Park for the 2024 Rockin' Robbins concert series. The design of the structure also makes it a great venue to host other events — theater in the park, church services, weddings, reunions, graduations and other gatherings.

Plans for the new structure were shared during Tuesday's Rockin' Robbins event, and also Wednesday at the Willmar Rotary meeting.

"The board decided it was time for us to put good use to the funds that we've been accumulating from our previous Rockin' Robbins and work on this amphitheater," said Bob Mathiasen, a Willmar Rotary member who co-chairs the amphitheater committee with fellow club member Todd Mattison.

The community committee for the amphitheater was formed this spring, and it was decided this project should be a community effort with the Willmar Rotary Club leading the way.

"We decided it was much more realistic to go out in our community and try to raise the funds and get this thing done sooner rather than later," Mathiasen said.

A lot of brainstorming took place to come up with a design concept, and then the committee hired Engan Associates to create the design.

"It's nice working in our own backyard," said Andy Engan. "It's more than just a project for us, it's part of our community."

The committee is now beginning the marketing and fundraising to make the project come to fruition.

Willmar Rotary has committed $100,000 toward the project.

City of Willmar staff members have been actively involved in creating the vision for the unique amphitheater structure, but the project will still have to be approved by the Willmar City Council once the funds are available to complete the project.

The project's final cost has not yet been determined.

During the Willmar Rotary meeting, Eben Pederson of Engan Associates gave a presentation about the process of designing the two-stage amphitheater structure.

Images and information about other similar projects throughout the Midwest region were gathered for the committee to study the scale of other projects and help decide what the Willmar community needs.

The design includes a 1,536-square-foot main stage that can accommodate a crowd of up to 10,000 people, and a backstage that is 626 square feet and uses the park's natural landscape to create an intimate performance venue for 500 people.

"With the natural landscape (on Robbins Island Regional Park), they have brought us the idea of a two-sided concept — being able to use that natural landscape behind the stage to house people and have some really nice seating for a more intimate venue and a smaller crowd," Pederson said during the presentation.

The structure will also have storage space, a green room and a restroom for performers, and will be built with materials similar to the other structures currently on Robbins Island. Other design concepts include a donor wall, sound, lighting and security.

Engan Associates presented three design concepts to a group that included community stakeholders, acoustic experts, park shelter representatives and prefabricated roof companies, according to Pederson.

The group ultimately decided on a design concept which included a connecting space separated by barn doors between the two stages.

"One of the key things in the design is having all the building at a consistent floor elevation," Pederson said, noting it will help with the movement of equipment and stage production time.

Other design elements were being able to open up the barn doors between the two stages so it could also function as a single event space, and the placement of doors for stage left and stage right to accommodate a theater performance or a rock concert.

Considerations were also taken to ensure optimal conditions for both audience and performers, which meant building in such a way that speakers, sound equipment and lighting were incorporated in the design and did not clutter the front of the stage.

Although the floor space within the structure is all one elevation, the main stage will be elevated several feet above ground level to allow a large audience to see the performance.

The small stage will be closer to ground level and was designed in such a way to create a "really unique experience within itself, something that was different, but also added to the whole structure itself," Pederson said.

The structure will have "an iconic butterfly roof, opening up and really projecting to the audience, to the crowd," Pederson said. "(It is) also creating a little bit of a beacon on the island itself with some of that lighting, helping it to glow, having the potential to become a landmark within the community."