New Ulm amphitheater rendering

A rendering shows what New Ulm’s German Park Amphitheater could look like once completed. Stone terraces would replace the park’s current sagging grass slope. Fundraising continues for the project, which could begin this fall.

NEW ULM — Advocates for New Ulm’s German Park Amphitheater project are optimistic construction will begin by the end of the year as hoped.

Secured donations and pledges add up to $458,425 of the $844,307 needed to replace a sagging grassy slope with handicap-accessible concrete terraces in the park. The city of New Ulm is accepting bids for the project through Aug. 26.

Park Director Tom Schmitz said he anticipates he’ll ask the New Ulm City Council to award the project to the lowest bidder at a Sept. 3 meeting.

“We hope that construction will begin yet this autumn for underground footings,” he said. “But all the above-ground work would take place in the spring and summer of 2020.”

This timeline would allow the park to be finished by September 2020. Fundraising would continue through 2019 or 2020 until the goal is met.

Free community events continued at the park this year, although adding concrete terraces to make the park more accessible has long been discussed. Dr. Ann Vogel, a New Ulm resident who’s helped raise funds for the project, said she and others have been hoping to see the amphitheater completed since the early 1990s.

Back then she said there was great interest in rededicating and upgrading the park, originally built in 1856. Interest waned as the city fell on harder times, but she’s hoping to reignite the enthusiasm in the public space to get the amphitheater finished.

“It’s just a matter of blowing on those embers again because it’s been 23 years,” she said.

The park’s backers are looking to rally local support for the project at the City Council meeting in September. Vogel described the park as a community asset embodying “gemütlichkeit,” the German word evoking feelings of friendliness, belonging and social acceptance.

Fundraising efforts follow this theme. Donors can have their own inscriptions written into the concrete terraces, which would be pro- vided by local company American Artstone.

“We don’t care how small it is or how big, we just want people to have skin in the game and be able to go down here when it’s all done and say, ‘I helped make this happen,’” Vogel said.

This year’s donations range from a $25 contri- bution in July to a $100,000 one in March. Vogel said those who pledged big sums in past years will want to see the project move forward this year, while construction costs would likely rise if the project is delayed any more.

“This fall is so important cause the costs will continue to elevate,” she said.

The park and its amphitheater would continue to host free community events once completed, like the concert series this summer on Mondays and Wednesdays. Lighting and sound systems would be installed as part of construction. The park also could be rented for private events including weddings, reunions and company outings.

Those wanting to support to the amphitheater project may send donations to New Ulm’s Park and Recreation Department at 122 S. Garden St.

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