Murrysville officials continue debate on amphitheater project

Jan. 21—When local officials began planning for a possible amphitheater at Murrysville Community Park in 2018, it was in response to a community survey about amenities residents wanted to see.

In addition to the amphitheater, they included a playground and splash pad, both of which were installed over the next couple of years.

The amphitheater project, however, fell victim to ballooning costs over the course of the covid-19 pandemic, and that cost — as well as the need — has been the subject of criticism from community members at recent council meetings.

"I think there's been a lot of misconception," said Councilman Mac McKenna, responding to rumors that the amphitheater would be hosting concerts for crowds of 3,000 to 5,000 people. "You hear that number, but the size of events we're looking at is more like a couple hundred people."

Murrysville Chief Administrator Michael Nestico said the only event the park hosts that comes close to 3,000 people is the annual Concert in the Park, which brings in around 2,600 people over the course of an eight-hour event.

Several residents, however, thought even that would a few hundred cars would be too much traffic for a rural route such as Wiestertown Road, where the park is located.

"People already don't have enough places to park when there are just athletic events there," said Jeff Laird. "They park on the grass and anywhere they can. Plus, I moved out there for peace and quiet, not to hear a bunch of bands banging around."

Raymond Renda, who lives nearby on Hilty Road, agreed.

"Wiestertown Road cannot handle that traffic," he said. "Put it down on (Route) 22, not in a quiet part of Murrysville where nobody wants it."

Nestico said he also wanted to clarify the actual cost of the project, in terms of what Murrysville is paying.

"You're hearing that the project went up to $1.8 million, but right now the municipality currently has about $813,000 committed to the project," he said. "That grew from an initial $300,000 amount. So about a half-million dollars is the true amount the project increased."

A state grant totaling $623,000 is helping fund the project, and Nestico said staff is looking into the possibility of additional donations and opportunities like naming rights in order to raise additional money.

He also said that while Murrysville's ordinances don't require a traffic study for the project, "that's not to say we can't undertake one at some point."

Councilwoman Jamie Lingg, who has said the municipality should be focusing its spending on necessities rather than amenities like an amphitheater, supported a traffic study.

Council took no official action during its discussion Wednesday of the amphitheater, but Nestico said he'd like council to provide some direction on how members want to proceed.

"The project has been moving forward because council had approved it an allocated funding for it," he said. "And our grant money needs to be used by the end of 2023. That's why we'd like to know that, in the spring, we can hit the ground running so we can get some of the major work done under the grant funding."

The municipality also is pursuing a grant to help offset the cost of accessible restrooms as part of the project.

Murrysville's Parks and Recreation Committee sent a recommendation to council to move forward with the amphitheater, citing the possibility of renting it for both private and public events.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at or via Twitter .