David Butler waited more than five years for Richfield to green-light construction of a band shell planned as the go-to site for community events and performances. On Tuesday night, he finally got his wish.
The City Council approved the $538,000 project on a 4-1 vote, putting Richfield on a path to join Minneapolis, Bloomington, Edina and other neighboring cities that have their own band shells.
"There's a lot of band shells," Butler said, "but I think there's room for one more."
The structure is planned for Veterans Park, southeast of the Richfield Ice Arena near the corner of Portland Avenue and E. 66th Street. The site overlooks a grassy lawn at Legion Lake.
The council awarded the $377,000 construction bid to Savage-based Fendler Patterson Construction. Costs in addition to construction include engineering, testing, architecture design and contingency funds.
The city will spend $325,000 on the project, with the balance coming from funds raised by a donor group called Friends of the Richfield Band Shell.
"It's the biggest project the city's ever had where they've raised money in the community," said the 89-year-old Butler. "The biggest one I know of, anyway."
The final price tag is almost half what the city estimated in 2012. The council rejected multiple bids until the Friends had raised enough to cover the balance.
"We've had some delays, but the delays have ended up creating a better project," Butler said. "We've developed a design that I think is better than the original."
The three-sided band shell would have rock-faced brick walls, a concrete stage and a slanted roof with wooden support beams. Other features, including an anti-graffiti coating and treble and bass clef decals, could be installed at extra cost.
Construction could begin as soon as next month. The project is expected to be finished by August 2018.
The band shell project faced everything from poor site conditions to a vocal opposition group in the years leading up to Tuesday's vote.
And it won't be the only open-air performance space in Richfield. An amphitheater near Richfield Lake Park opened last month; before that, bands played atop a cement slab in Augsburg Park.
The city is expected to use the band shell for its Fourth of July celebrations and summer performance series, as well as weddings, graduations and church services.
Council members Tuesday expressed gratitude to Butler, the Friends group and Jim Topitzhofer, the city's recreational director.
"I really think this is a modest band shell ... that offers a place for us to get together," Council Member Mike Howard said.
Council Member Maria Regan Gonzalez voted in opposition, saying many residents in her east ward were worried about a "saturation of activities" at Veterans Park. She said the new amphitheater, while smaller, is more than adequate for community performances.
Butler has been in the Richfield Symphonic Band since 1989 and now also plays baritone sax in its accompanying swing band. The group puts on about 10 shows a year around the Twin Cities. He said he realizes the Friends group needs to raise more money to pay for additional features at the band shell. He is looking forward to playing his first concert there and wants every detail to be just right.
"I'm hoping the acoustics are good," Butler said with a laugh.