Huntsville city council passes $4 million MidCity amphitheater design contract

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville city council members voted to pass a measure that gives the go-ahead on a $4 million design contract for a new amphitheater. The measure passed with a 4-1 vote.

Councilman Bill Kling cast the lone dissenting vote.

“In my mind, it’s a win-win situation,” Councilman Will Culver said. “We need to send a strong message to this community that we appreciate these developers for coming to Huntsville and doing some incredible things in our community.”

More than 30 people spoke at a public hearing work session at city hall on Wednesday evening. City council members wanted to hear from neighbors before agreeing to a $40 million price tag.

At the meeting, neighbors got their first look at the rendering of the proposed outdoor concert venue in Huntsville.

"It gives us the ability to compete with Austin, Texas, and South by Southwest," Mayor Tommy Battle said.

"Our clients and fans treat us well here. Yet, we've felt somewhat ignored by the city's economic development plans until today," Huntsville musician Judy Allison said.

In a presentation, city administrator John Hamilton laid out plans for the proposed project, to be built on the southwest corner during phase one of the MidCity Huntsville property along University Drive.

"While this looks like a humongous project, it's not a humongous project for Huntsville, Alabama," Hamilton said.

City leaders bill the amphitheater as world class, but at $40 million in construction for a venue that seats fewer than 10,000 people, city leaders admit the price may cause heartburn for some.

"I happen to think that MidCity is not the right location. I think it's like putting 10 pounds of whatever into a five-pound bag," Huntsville resident Tom Devenish said.

"You guys are spending money like drunk sailors. And some of it is absolutely ridiculous," Huntsville resident John Brown said.

Hamilton says the project would be paid for in capital improvement dollars. The city would own, but not manage the venue. Instead, they would lease it out. It wouldn't compete with the Von Braun Center which is undergoing a $12 million expansion as well.

If the design is approved, city leaders expect the venue could host concerts starting in April 2021.

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