On the shores of Lake Matoaka, the revitalized Lake Matoaka Amphitheater waits for the school year and student discovery.
p. The last concert was held there in 2005, meaning only this year’s juniors and seniors could have attended; however they will see a new amphitheater with the members of the incoming freshman class, who are scheduled to see it this weekend. The opening comedy show for Freshman Orientation will be performed there, “so people can get exposed to the area right away,” Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine said.
p. Repairs, which took place between March 2006 and April 2007, included removing graffiti, fixing brick, replacing infrastructure, replacing seating and resurfacing the stage.
p. The result is a clean and accessible venue with the capacity to seat 1,700. Of those seats, 575 are hard seats, while the rest of the space is tiered lawn seating.
p. The $7.5 million project was funded by $2.5 million in 2002 General Obligation Bonds and $5 million privately raised. In order to combat deterioration after the expensive project, the Student Affairs Office will stay on top of repairs and staff will be down there during events, Constantine said.
p. “[There are] not any specific policies to prevent damage, but we will know when it’s going to be used. Because of the amount of money [spent], we will have staff down there during events,” Constantine said. “Though the times it’s not being used, people can walk down there, so you just have to hope that will be okay.”
p. Constantine said he is hopeful that students will use the facility frequently.
p. “As with any facility on campus, students that want to use it will go to the scheduling office and request Matoaka. Then they will probably talk to me about what would be approved and what wouldn’t be approved,” he said. “If there were 50 people attending, then no, it wouldn’t make sense to use it. We’ll use it primarily for entertainment and that type of thing.”
p. UCAB already has a number of events lined up. Hypnotist Tom Deluca will perform there Sept. 1. Over the summer, bands performed there every Wednesday night. The Matoaka Summer Concerts Series, formerly known as New Town After Hours, ran from June 13 to Aug. 22.
p. During the year, the amphitheater will be available for the public to rent out. Administration will be cautious at first with renting it out, so that students can have priority, especially during times like spring break and commencement, Constantine said.
p. However, Sheila Sheppard, ’06, who was class president for two years and was appointed to the Building Committee for the project, still worries that the amphitheater will be too public.
p. “I was only able to attend one meeting, at which point the bulk of the decision making had been made regarding the extent of the project, its budget and scope,” she said. “I recall that a concern was that the amphitheater would become less a student venue and more a tourist and community venue.”
p. Constantine remains confident that students will make the most use of the facility.
p. “I think when students see it, they’ll be very impressed. We’ll have a harder time keeping people away than anything,” he said. “It won’t take long to catch on.”
p. The amphitheater was built in 1947 for Paul Green’s drama “The Common Glory,” which tells the story of the American Revolution. Attendance declined after tourists started losing interest in the 1950s. When the play failed to attract attendees during America’s Bicentennial in 1976, its producers gave up and an era of student use began.
p. “It was one of my favorite retreats as a student, first introduced to me by my freshman year RA during a hall program,” Sheppard said. “We walked down from Barrett Hall and soaked in the sunshine and peaceful atmosphere, part of its charm no doubt being its slightly abandoned and liberated atmosphere. The towers, commemorated with mysterious graffiti, were particularly endearing.”
p. Several concerts were held there over the years, including The Dave Matthews Band in 1994, Ben Folds in 2003 and the Pat McGee Band in 2005.
p. “It was for ‘The Common Glory’ play; after that it was used for student, faculty and community events,” Vice President for Administration Anna Martin said. “It was used less frequently as it deteriorated.” Even so, students seemed to enjoy the location.
p. “I also recall going to several rallies, one for my brother’s campaign for Student Assembly office, complete with a mini bonfire. I know many sororities and fraternities as well as other organizations used the place for fund raising events,” Sheppard said. “I also frequently enjoyed the amphitheater to bring my family to sit on the dock when they visited, or to study with friends or have a picnic on the grass. It was a place where students could venture, still being on campus but escaping the manicured structures and watchful eye.”
p. Students will no longer remember Matoaka Amphitheater as a hideout, but the promised events will help them make memories there all the same.