The idea of an amphitheater as a component of the Truman Waterfront Park has been in place since the original Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRACC) Plan approved in 1998. On May 1, 1999 (Resolution 99-151) the city voted to apply to the U.S. Department of Interior for a public benefit conveyance, which included backup materials that described an amphitheater being developed “at the center of these open areas for public gatherings, outdoor theatre and concerts, or a series of other uses.” Commissioner Harry Bethel moved to pass the resolution with a second by Commissioner Percy Curry and a unanimous vote by the then City Commission to approve. This was the beginning of the story of the Truman Waterfront Amphitheater.
The City has accelerated the implementation of the approval and construction of the Park in 2011, resulting in the approval of the Park Master plan by Truman Waterfront Advisory Board (TWAB) and the City Commission, acting as the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA). The Park Master Plan was approved by the LRA both on March 3, 2011 and again on October 15, 2012 and by the TWAB at a joint hearing with the BVRAC on March 19, 2012 and then again on August 20, 2012. In 2015 a Resolution (15-344) was passed to approve the task order for the Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater design and construction document preparation in the amount of $302,184. And on April 5, 2016 the City Commission voted 6-1 to pass the resolution ratifying the inter-local agreement with the TDC for funding in the amount of $2 million for the Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater and public parking project.
So for almost two decades, the City of Key West has been trying to build an amphitheater for the people of Key West. For almost 20 years, the common factor here is that local government, members of various boards and committees including TWAB and Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee and the people they represent have agreed by vast majority to give the residents and visitors of our island community a place where we can share in celebration, be exposed to local performing arts and provide an alternate venue to the taxpayers of our community where we can dance, sing, and experience culture, host non-profit events and fundraisers and just a cool place to hold public or private occasions with endless possibilities.
And now, at its pinnacle moment, the construction contract has been granted and we are days from breaking ground, a small minority want to stop the amphitheater. I find it strange that a project 20 years in the making is finally able to come to fruition and a few people think they have the right to take this from our people. This is something for the people of our community and for whatever reasons this small voice may have, it is unfair to punish the majority of our town. Not on my watch. Not while I am Mayor of my hometown. I promised you all I would fight for the people and I will do everything I can to give this gift to our community. You deserve it.
Some members of our community or our local government are fixated on how much money this amphitheater will generate. Well, it does have the potential to host at least six major events per year with world renowned headliners and the potential to sell thousands of tickets and generating tens of thousands of dollars per event. But that is if we decide to use it for that. The fact is, it could generate nothing for the City in terms of revenue and that should be okay too. Because our people deserve it — a place where our local Literary Seminar can hold a session under an amazing Key West sunset or our children can put on a holiday program under a starry night sky. This will truly serve as a community venue.
So I invite you all to share your ideas. AIDS Help, maybe this year you would like to increase your revenue from the Headdress Ball and not have to turn guests away due to limited seating? Key West High School, maybe you would like to hold this year’s Christmas Choir Concert in the open air and sing for a crowd of thousands of our residents? Relay for life, are you thinking about how beautiful it would be to honor your cause while circling the beautiful new outdoor area where the community can come support you with parking and accessibility throughout the day? How cool would it be to watch the Zombie Bike Ride end at the amphitheater with a great big finale? Bahama Village Art program, how about a live art auction from the new stage while the Bahama Village Music Program plays? Wedding and event designers, conference organizers, wouldn’t this be a great space to host grand parties or fresh-air training sessions? How about a cooperative yoga session or community fitness effort? Keys Chorale performances, up and coming actors, musicians, and local artists, songwriter’s festivals?
I invite you all to share your thoughts and ideas with me and our City staff so that we may start to get a sense of how our community envisions using this amazing gift to our city. You see, this could be a world-class amphitheater for all to enjoy.
Mayor Craig Cates, City of Key West