by Lisa D. Mickey
The sod is down, the frame is up, and MDC’s new amphitheater is set for completion later this month.
The thought of adding one more piece of the plan to the center’s overall vision has executive director Chad Truxall optimistic about the future.
“There have been some delays and challenges, but we are moving along,” said Truxall. “Our scheduled completion date is Nov. 21, and we’re hoping we can get there.”
Installation of the amphitheater roof has been delayed while the project engineer and roof manufacturer sort out some issues with the correct roof specifications. Once the roof is installed on the frame, Truxall said the roof will be painted green and the supporting frame structure will be painted brown.
Rounded cement stairs leading up to the stage were recently poured with the first installments of the personalized legacy bricks planned for next week. The final touch around the staging area will include stucco with a coquina finish.
Sod will be installed adjacent to the stage once the staging area has been completed.
Sprinklers have been irrigating the common Bermuda sod in the audience seating area for the last few weeks. Truxall said the selected sod is a hardy grass that is soft and durable, yet won’t have to be irrigated.
The sidewalk leading into the amphitheater area will be lighted and there will be lighting on top of the stage, as well as a 20-foot-high pole light above the amphitheater seating.
“This has been something we’ve been planning for a long time and we’ve been into the construction phase of the project now for more than six months,” Truxall said. “Now, we are finalizing plans for the native landscaping to go around the facility, including using sea grapes, dune daisies, live oaks, cabbage palms, red cedar and numerous native species.”
Working with Doug Hunt of the Pawpaw Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, Truxall said plantings will be phased in, with additional trees and plantings on the property scheduled in a future installation.
“What’s exciting is the vision of what this entire property will become with a connectivity between the center and the restored salt marsh,” Truxall added.
“That was always the idea.”
MDC’s living shoreline area of the restored salt marsh has already become a welcoming spot for guests with purple-blooming muhly grass blowing in the breeze and picnic tables positioned above the living shoreline adjacent to the lagoon on the western side of the property.
Of course, once the amphitheater is completed, Truxall said the next consideration is how the facility will be used in an ongoing basis.
“We’ve talked about hosting a film series here with conservation-related films for the public followed by Q&A opportunities,” said Truxall. “We want to see how that blends with the current public lecture series and perhaps how the public lecture series can also utilize that facility.”
Truxall also hopes the amphitheater stage can be used as an outdoor classroom, as a central location for educational programming, for musical and live performances, and as center stage for MDC’s annual Lagoonacy festival.
Obvious partners to help bring the arts to MDC will be the neighboring Artists’ Workshop and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, added Truxall. The Hub on Canal Street and New Smyrna Beach’s Little Theater could also potentially partner with MDC to mesh the arts and sciences.
“I think the sky’s the limit in how we integrate this site with the arts, which is a unique part of our culture in this community,” said Truxall. “Maybe we’ll work with the Little Theater to host a play. We already have had some great ideas.”
MDC hopes to have a “soft opening” of the new amphitheater for the general public on Nov. 29, at which time Truxall hopes the film “Junk” will be shown prior to the annual ShORE symposium the next day at the Brannon Center. The keynote speaker for ShORE produced the film and would be present to meet the public that evening during the showing.
“As excited as I am about having the amphitheater, the future trails on the property and all the programming that will be possible, it’s most satisfying to realize the vision here is starting to come alive,” added Truxall. “The finished product is going to be truly exciting.”