The Fort Williams Advisory Commission is seeking public comment on its plan to construct a new, 350-seat amphitheater at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth.

The project is designed to create an outdoor, multipurpose performance space that could be used for concerts, public gatherings, community events and more.

It is also designed to complement the existing parade ground and to serve as a gateway for the new children’s garden, a project of the Fort Williams Park Foundation, which is under construction this summer.

Mark Russell, chairman of the park’s advisory commission, said this week that $440,000 has already been set aside for construction of the amphitheater. However, since Fort Williams Park is town-owned, the commission must get approval from the Town Council before breaking ground.

Russell said the idea is to construct a semi-circular amphitheater on the site of the old concrete bleachers, which were removed earlier this year, except for a small section traditionally used for graduation ceremonies by Cape Elizabeth High School.

He said the Fort Williams Advisory Commission has given reconstruction of the bleacher site, located near the tennis courts and gazebo, the highest priority in terms of projects designed to improve the park.

The commission has scheduled a public forum on Aug. 17 to get input on the proposal, but anyone who cannot attend the meeting could also send comments or questions to Bob Malley, Cape’s public works director.

Malley said this week that the purpose of the forum next month is to “get feedback on the commission’s proposal,” which would then be used to finalize plans for the new amphitheater.

“The proposal was developed by the Fort Williams Advisory Commission to replace the concrete bleachers that were in a state of disrepair,” Malley said this week.

“The details of the proposed improvement project have yet to be finalized, but (the commission feels it) could complement the children’s garden and be used as a venue for community and cultural events,” he added.

The commission first presented its plan for a new amphitheater a year ago to the Town Council. The council asked the group to spend more time studying and reviewing the project details and specifically requested that the commission provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the plan.

At that time Lise Pratt, who was then the chairwoman of the commission, told the council that the group was strongly in favor of a plan that would “include amphitheater seating for a large audience and offer the potential for generating additional revenue” for park upkeep.

While use of the amphitheater would likely be free for certain community uses, the goal would be to charge a fee for its use by others, particularly as a concert or theater venue.

Creating a usable public space from the crumbling concrete bleachers at the parade grounds has been a part of the park’s master plan for more than a decade. For the past two years the Fort Williams Advisory Commission has held several public meetings and workshops with the hope of creating a redevelopment proposal that would meet with council approval.

The commission favors plans developed by Mitchell & Associates Landscape Architects, based in Portland. If the project receives approval this year or early next year, the hope would be to break ground sometime next spring or summer.

A closer look

The Fort Williams Advisory Commission in Cape Elizabeth will hold a public forum at Town Hall on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. to get input into its plans for a new amphitheater at Fort Williams Park. Contact Bob Malley, Cape’s public works director, at [email protected] or 799-4151 for questions or comments.

A proposed new amphitheater at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth would provide seating for 350 and be used as a public gathering place.

Most of these concrete bleachers at Fort Williams Park have been demolished to make way for an amphitheater.

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