Needing more space for outdoor events in downtown Jefferson, the city’s MainStreet Jefferson organization wants an outdoor venue.
Main Street director Beth Laughinghouse presented the city council on Sept. 23 with a capital projects request for a $2.5 million amphitheater with both terrace and lawn seating. The project would include parking spaces. The venue, which would be located behind the South Public Square section of downtown, could hold approximately 1,000 people.
“We need that dedicated space downtown for events,” Laughinghouse said.
All events currently being hosted on streets and sidewalks downtown — including the farmers' market and the city’s Freedom Festival — could move to this facility. The space could also be rented out to organizations and businesses that wish to host events.
Main Street Jefferson seeks more space for its own operations as well.
Laughinghouse presented a $200,000 capital project request to renovate an old gas station into an office for the organization. Main Street Jefferson is currently housed in the Crawford Long Museum and is crunched for space in that building.
Laughinghouse also presented the council a $300,000 capital project request to renovate South Public Square. The project adds 15 to 20-foot sidewalks from one end of the block to the other, more parking spaces and paving of lanes and traffic spaces.
The project would require acquiring property behind South Public Square. Two of the four property owners have told Laughinghouse they would be willing to donate or sell that property to move forward with the project.
“This project would certainly be a great addition to downtown and improve the looks of that back of the building, especially from the new amphitheater park,” Laughinghouse said.
These items were not in the city’s 2020 budget, which was approved Sept. 23. The council, however, will review larger capital improvement projects over the next month that could be prioritized through budget amendments.
REC DEPT. ‘BUSTING AT THE SEAMS’
The council also discussed expansion of the city’s recreation department facilities with director Fenton Morris telling city leaders that more space is sorely needed.
“Right now, we’re busting at the seams with the growth of Jefferson,” Morris said.
The council is considering an addition to the recreation department building that would allow more room for gymnastics programs, youth volleyball and basketball leagues, senior-citizen activities, exercise classes and the childcare program. But the department is also in need of athletic fields since the city only owns two, though it does use some of the city school system’s fields.
The department saw a 23 percent increase in participation in spring baseball and softball, according to Morris.
Morris said while new ball fields would certainly be welcomed, an addition to the building would impact a greater number of programs and citizens than field additions would.
“The building expansion has more of an immediate impact to several different programs and community members within Jefferson,” Morris said.
Councilman Jon Howell asked Morris to come back to the council with definitive recommendations for the best options for expansion.