‘It’s going to be a great facility’

Asia Ashley

May 10, 2014

Over the years, Boyd Park has seen the good, the bad and the ugly, but what’s next for the park will be a complete turnaround from what the park has seen in recent years.

According to Troup County Historian Clark Johnson, the park was established as the City Park or Municipal Park in 1935, and became unused and abandoned in 2006. Since then, park has become slightly deteriorated, but in the next year or so, however, the park will become revitalized with an amphitheater as a prospective entertainment venue, a project headed by the county.

“It’s going to be a great facility,” said LaGrange City Manager Tom Hall. “This opportunity to revitalize it will hopefully give it a new life.”

The “City Park” was the site of the city’s pool and the gateway to the park and pool stood brick pavilion designed by popular architectural firm during the 1920s to late 1960s, Ivey and Crook. Built by the Daniel Lumber Company, the brick had been painted white, but currently sits in its original brick form.

The pool was the anticipated summer “hangout” back in the day, Johnson said; Girls and boys had to enter the pool through dressing rooms on opposite sides of the pavilion, Johnson recalled.

“My first memories of Boyd Park include the city pool where families and children would spend long, hot summer days splashing, laughing and socializing,” said former mayor Jeff Lukken.

A baseball field was incorporated into the park 1982 with money from the Callaway Foundation.

“Later my children would learn about gritty competition and sportsmanship in the spring and summer playing little league baseball in the park’s red clay dirt with teams from all over Troup County,” Lukken said of his memories of the park.

On July 4, 2003, the park was renamed for Jim and Annette Boyd. The Boyds had started the “Sweet Land of Liberty” parade over 30 years ago, held on the Fourth of July each year, and the parade to date still begins at the park.

The pool closed in 2006 because of repairs that would amount to be “tremendously expensive,” said Hall, so the city chose to build pools in other locations, which would amount to be more affordable.

Troup County Manager Tod Tentler said the pool had been leaking about 50,000 gallons and when looking at the cost of repair costs, also said that because the pool could not be repaired, it became less costly to build newer pools.

Upon deterioration of the pool, the pavilion no longer had use.

Now with plans for Boyd Park to be the site for the amphitheater with goals of it being a prime location for concerts, graduations and/or community events, city and county officials hope to bring more community involvement and use to the area.

“We (county and city officials, the Downtown Development Authority and chamber, etc) were trying to find something to be the anchor of that side of downtown because we have the movie theater on the other side and all the restaurants and businesses in the middle,” said Tentler. “And because it was deteriorating we wanted to do something to preserve the history a bit. We started looking at what we were missing in Troup County and we agreed that we didn’t have any kind of place to have an event for musical entertainments and agreed that it would be a perfect place for an amphitheater.”

First looks into potential projects for the Boyd Park area resulted in large green space, then a plan for a $14 million covered amphitheater. In a drastic reduction of costs, an uncovered amphitheater became the plan.

Though located in the city of LaGrange, the project became a county project under SPLOST guidelines that any recreational activity is to be considered a county-wide project. It was voted on by citizens in 2011 on the SPLOST ballot, said Tentler.

The Smith Design Group designed the layout for the amphitheater project estimated at $7.5 million. One million in the county SPLOST dollars will be used for the project and the Callaway Foundation has agreed to provide funding. City and county will cover additional costs using SPLOST dollars.

Gordon “Skip” M. Smith, Jr., president of the Smith Design Group, said in visiting several amphitheaters in the region, his firm gained inspiration to the Boyd Park amphitheater design.

Currently, the former city pool and fencing has been removed. The baseball field and its dugouts will be removed and trees will have to be removed on the sloped terrain for the amphitheater.

“We will try to maintain as much of the existing trees as possible,” said Smith, noting that the bicentennial tree at the front entrance of the park will not be removed. “For every tree we remove, we’re going to be planting two to three more,” said Smith.

The pavilion will be rehabilitated and not demolished.

“We’re trying to stay within the same historical detailing and architecture,” Smith said. “We are maintaining as much as we can of the existing building.”

The terracotta roof will be replaced. The upper level of the pavilion will have seating for about 130 people and a ticketing and storage area. A large concession area and restrooms will be on the lower level and a stairway will be built on the backside of the pavilion leading down to the lower level and a green space, the site of the former pool.

The green space will be approximately the size of a football field, he said, and plans allow for it to be left open for daily public use.

The baseball field will become a 130-space parking lot and a sloped sidewalk will be incorporated to lead to LaGrange High School to allow access to Granger Park parking; There will be over 1,500 parking spaces withing a five minute walk, Smith noted.

On the sloped terrain behind Boyd Park will be amphitheater seating, to include 870 stadium styled seats, a pit area in front of a stage that could seat 200, and along the sides of the stadium seating will be room for about 130 seats. The green space behind the stadium seating could seat up to 800. Guest would have to bring chairs or blankets if they are not seated in the stadium seats.

The stage-house, Smith said, will be similar to the design of the pavilion to create unified look. It will include a large projection screen, camera and audio platforms, restrooms, two large dressing rooms for performers, two other private performer rooms and a loading dock out back, that will be accessed from a street that will lead from W. Bacon Street.

The entire site will be fully accessible for people with disabilities by way of sloped sidewalks and ramps and the amphitheatre bowl is designed to have accessible seating with multiple viewing locations.

With other additional landscaping and detailing, to include decorative fencing and lighting throughout the site, Smith said there is no definitive time line that the project will be complete, but anticipates within 16 months.

Upon completion, the amphitheater will bring a new beginning Boyd Park and the community.

“The new amphitheater will continue the legacy of love and community spirit as people gather to socialize, to celebrate, and to enjoy their families in the same wonderful place we have for decades,” said Lukken.