As a devoted clarinet player, music lover and loyal Richfield resident, David J. Butler says the city deserves a better site for concerts than the concrete slab that now hosts music groups in Augsburg Park.
He would like the city to have a bandshell, like Bloomington, Edina and other nearby cities do.
"The acoustics on the cement slab are terrible," Butler said. "Bands would come here and play for free if we had a decent bandshell."
Richfield City Council members have not approved a bandshell, but have supported exploring the possibility of building one, said Jim Topitzhofer, city recreation services director.
A city strategic plan and a parks master plan both mention a bandshell, and the city has earmarked $250,000 in 2014 municipal liquor store proceeds to a bandshell fund. The total cost would be an estimated $1 million, meaning about $750,000 would have to be raised privately.
Now the city wants to know what residents think. A public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Richfield Community Center, 7000 Nicollet Av. S., to gauge interest.
Butler leads a small planning group that has been exploring building a bandshell in Veterans Park, near the city's Ice Arena. Nearby are a large parking lot, restrooms and concessions. A bandshell could be built next to the park's lake, Topitz- hofer said.
He said if a bandshell is built, it would be simple: a stage with a backdrop, a roof and a sound system.
"We like the idea of having some benches in front for seating," he said. "But there's also an area ... that's more amphitheater-like, where people could sit in chairs and on blankets.
"We don't want something grandiose. We want something functional that we can be proud of."
Butler, who is a member of the Richfield Symphonic Band, grew up in Mason City, Iowa -- "Music Man" composer Meredith Willson's hometown.
"I grew up with a bandshell ... at a time when every city in Iowa had a bandshell," Butler said. "Bandshells are kind of like apple pie in the Midwest."
The Richfield Symphonic Band usually plays one outdoor concert each summer in its home city, and Butler hates it that, without a bandshell or backdrop, much of the sound dissipates. The band plays about a dozen concerts around the metro each year, and Butler said he knows the difference a bandshell makes.
The city is doing a feasibility study that should be finished by the end of the year, and also is doing a noise study to make sure a bandshell makes sense in an area that gets a bit of airport noise.
Topitzhofer said attendance was steady last summer at a 10-week concert program in the parks and at a six-week program of daytime concerts for kids.
"Bandshells are community builders, a gathering point with families that enjoy being outside," he said.
Thursday's public meeting will be one barometer of how likely residents are to support a bandshell. But Butler said the city's Symphonic Band is trying to raise money for the project now.
At a free concert on Dec. 2, the band will take up a collection to go toward such a project. The concert is at 4 p.m. at Richfield United Methodist Church, 5835 Lyndale Av. S. in Minneapolis.
"Our band enjoys playing in a nice venue with a good audience," Butler said. "We've got to get a decent bandshell in Richfield. Not only for the musicians, but for the audience."
Mary Jane Smetanka 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan