• Dave McGuire

The Pre-Covid Amphitheater Talk

The Clarksvillian

An acquaintance was in town with former classmates considering a business proposal in Montgomery County. In the age of social distancing, and wellness associated with being outdoors, an outdoor amphitheater was an interesting discussion topic and potential addition to Clarksville.

Our outlying areas of the city provide quick expansive views of open spaces. Take a ride along I-24 from Exit 11 to the Kentucky state line and it’s unmistakable to notice prime locations ready for the taking. How convenient would it be for a 30 acre outdoor venue to attract visitors from all of Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky? The private business community's financial benefits would be plentiful as they ranged from tourists visiting hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. The government's tax revenue, a key aspect, would also benefit from a Montgomery County facility opposed to a metro area Kentucky based venue.

Identifying the potential of Clarksville’s first true outdoor venue falls directly in alignment with the growth plans for the city – and helping in the the very real struggle of brain drain every community faces. The outdoor venue would capture a great opportunity at providing a place for regional community organizations and not-for-profits to organize and showcase different types of events. Although the financial benefits are important to the county’s interest, it’s also the quality-of-life and social aspect which carry a slightly less than equal weight. We only need to look at similar regional attractions and their successes:

In Nashville, the downtown Ascend Amphitheater hosts popular artists. There’s also Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel, also in Nashville.

Travel further south and you'll find a new amphitheater at Dolan's Farm. Williamson County's Farm at Dolan's Creek estimates their main stage area seats about 7,500 people.. A very similar footprint for an amphitheater in the Greater Clarksville Area.

Each of these projects have been significant additions to their local business neighbors as well as other nearby communities. How did they each get to this point of being effective so quickly? The failed model of Starwood Amphitheater helped Nashvillians learn from prior mistakes surrounding the operation of larger outdoor venues. The Starwood music venue was very similar in size to the others shown above (approximately 30 acres) and that parameter helped to build a functional model. In time, it was discovered a core issue at Starwood was the bottleneck of traffic to arrive and exit the venue. Its failing was never about the regional interest or non support for the events. The struggle was found as an internal operational workflow.

A Clarksville venue wouldn’t need to be as extravagant as Huntsville’s new amphitheater project. The key approval point for Huntsville’s project? Their location – when compared to Clarksville it’s actually a much less attractive option. Additionally, the style of Clarksville’s Amphitheater would be more low-key in different in terms of construction. The culture of our area would attach itself to a design focused more on nature with traditional outdoor venue settings. The only requirements would be baselined to include a performance stage, concession outlets, restrooms, grass seating and parking.

The expectation of scheduling would include 10-15 concerts per year with 10 complimentary non-concern events. These events would create ripple waves of financial spend throughout the area while improving the quality-of-life aspect to residents. The land is ready, waiting and available. The plans, approval and development could place a scheduled grand opening in the bright lights of the post-Covid19 concert world. It's now just a waiting game tied to another of those infamous proposal meetings.

Interesting possibilities are still plentiful, even in the upside down times of today.