CANTON — After a vote from the Canton City Council, an amphitheater costing almost $300,000 has been added to the plans for the city‘s newest recreation place, the Etowah River Park.
The Canton City Council voted during its meeting Thursday night to spend about $291,000 from the city’s SPLOST VI fund to pay for the amphitheater, which is hoped to become the go-to outdoor venue for concerts and other stage shows.
The Etowah River Park is under construction at the end of Brown Industrial Parkway in the Canton-Cherokee Industrial Park and is being funded primarily with a $3.1 million allowance from the countywide parks bond. Before approving the amphitheater Thursday night, the city of Canton had also spent $418,000 on the park.
Councilman John Beresford brought the proposal before the City Council at its last meeting, and despite protest from Councilman Glen Cummins, the plan passed its final vote Thursday 4-1 with only Cummins voting against it. Councilman Hooky Huffman was absent.
Beresford said the amphitheater will be the “cornerstone” of the new park and a beacon sitting at the entrance of the grounds welcoming in visitors who’ve come to take part in the events it will have.
“The amphitheater will be a major draw to this city and to the downtown area,” Beresford said.
But with no guarantee of how much draw the park fixture would have, Cummins said the move is risky.
“Do we have any information or statistics that would justify our expenditure of ($291,000),” he asked. “We haven’t done any of this, so we don’t know what the success or the failure or the draw from this (would be). Therefore, I think we are very premature to go ahead and build this amphitheater in the hopes that we’re going to have a success out of it,” Cummins said.
Cummins mentioned the city of Woodstock, which Canton is often compared to because of the two cities’ similar populations.
“As you probably know, Woodstock does not have an amphitheater,” he said. “They have put it on sort of a hold until they get the financial justification to build it. But that doesn’t stop them from doing concerts.”
Beresford held his ground after the meeting and said it was important to make a move on the amphitheater now before the contractor finishes construction and leaves the site.
“They were really pushing to get approval or not on this, because they’re going to hold to the number,” he said. “This thing could go up in price.”
Beresford, who has in large part taken the lead on the Etowah River Park project, said it’s satisfying to see the addition finally getting closer to a reality.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve been going through a lot to try to get that accomplished.”
The Etowah River Park will include three soccer fields, walking trails, a playground and a walking bridge over the Etowah River.
Beresford said it was originally planned to be open by the end of this year, but frequent rains have slowed construction.
“Worst case scenario,” the park will open in April, Beresford said.
During the Canton City Council meeting Friday, the council also:
• Heard the first reading of a budget amendment of $120,000 to haul in dirt to cap an inactive landfill in south Canton; and
• Discussed hiring a third-party to conduct a study and help create a “transportation plan” in an effort to repair a number of roads with issues in the city. Mayor Gene Hobgood said some real estate developers have left roads in subdivisions incomplete, without the proper coating.