Donors say their city needs something practical, not fancy.
Richfield is scaling back plans for a $1 million community band shell after a survey of potential donors indicated they thought the goal was overly ambitious and perhaps ostentatious for a city that prides itself on its down-to-earth nature.
Now supporters are aiming to raise $550,000 for a structure that they say will still meet their goal of creating a good performance venue for the city.
“We’re realistic and we think we can get a nice, enclosed band shell for that amount,” said David J. Butler, a member of the Richfield Symphonic Band, who leads a group that has been pushing for a band shell.
Jim Topitzhofer, the city’s recreation services director, agrees. The city has earmarked $250,000 from municipal liquor store profits for the project, which has yet to get final approval from the City Council. The rest of the cost would come through fundraising.
“I wasn’t surprised to learn that there’s a limited giving capacity in the community, given the way the economy has been in the last three years,” Topitzhofer said. “I think we can purchase a prefab structure ... and enhance and add to it.”
Fundraising goals were reset after a consultant interviewed 21 potential donors and community leaders. Many interviewees were supportive of a band shell, consultant Excelsior Bay Group LLC reported, but they thought the proposed $1 million project cost was too high.
They “emphasized that Richfield is not a ‘showy’ city that needs an extravagant band shell,” the consultant report said. “They would like something the city can be proud of, but want to be conservative with resources.”
The people who were interviewed, including representatives of several financial institutions and Richfield-based Best Buy, said they would consider gifts that together would total about $122,000. Raising another $250,000 to $300,000 from the community over five years is a reasonable goal, the consultant said.
Potential donors also wanted to make sure any band shell is in a location where it will be well-used. And they urged band shell supporters to resolve community confusion over plans by the people who are redeveloping Lyndale Gardens. Plans for the old Lyndale Garden Center site include construction of a performance space.
“I think [Lyndale Gardens] will build a performance stage with or without us, but we would consider adding to it,” Topitzhofer said. “The idea they have pitched to us is that if we want to participate, we could put a covering on it and run a concert program out of there.”
Butler prefers Veterans Park because a band shell could be built on a pretty site near a lake that is close to restrooms and parking.
“It has more space, it’s not crowded ... and there is plenty of area for seating and maybe a peace garden and sculpture garden,” he said. “We think it has all the characteristics for a band shell.”
Topitzhofer said a decision about a location for a possible band shell will be made at the end of the summer. Fundraising would begin in earnest next summer. This year the city’s annual summer concert series will rotate between three locations: Lyndale Gardens, Veterans Park and Augsburg Park, where last summer the majority of concerts were held.
Rotating the concerts has a money-saving motive. The city had planned to hire professionals for a sound study to see if noise from the MSP airport affected possible band shell sites. Instead, Topitzhofer said, the city will survey people at each concert to get feedback on whether airport noise made a difference. Concert-goers also will be asked how easy it was to park, whether street noise bothered them and what they thought of the site.
“We want to make sure we engage the community on this,” Topitzhofer said.
With a band shell budget of $550,000, the city could purchase a prefabricated structure that would be assembled on site, he said. The budget also would cover a concrete stage 30 to 40 feet wide, decorative touches to jazz up the bare-bones structure, a sound system and landscaping. If the structure were at Veterans Park, a hoped-for glass back would allow the audience to see the lake behind the stage.
The City Council has not committed to building a band shell, but has voted to support the concept to bolster appeals for corporate donations.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan