By: Kitty Mayo
Members of the nonprofit Friends of the Band Shell Park say that progress is being made toward their dream of a reimagined performing arts center and city park. The center will replace the bandshell at Thomas Owens Park in Two Harbors that was built over 70 years ago. The new center will be an indoor/outdoor center that is accessible and can be used year around for many venues.
The FOBSP first formed with members of the Two Harbors City Band, a band that has been playing at the current bandshell since 1937. The City Band first organized in 1897, and is an autonomously operating organization, with a modest annual allocation from the city.
It’s a tradition that city band member Al Anderson says the city should be very proud of. However, the wood-frame structure has aged, and provides inadequate storage space for the city band in the the form of just one usable narrow passageway behind the back wall. A basement under the structure is prone to flooding, and in past years has caused damage to band equipment when a sump pump failed, leaving most equipment stored in a variety of locations, including the city hall basement, and individual band members’ homes.
Mary Planten-Krell moved to Silver Bay over four years ago, and immediately began looking for someplace she could play her flute. She soon found that the Two Harbors City Band was the only place in the area where she could play.
“It’s a wonderful organization and wonderful location, but getting down the steps you are really taking your life in your own hands,” said Planten-Krell.
Narrow stairs that Planten-Krell dubs “rickety,” an unreliable handrail, and band members carrying instruments looks like a recipe for an accident to Planten-Krell. There are also “soft spots” in several places on the floor of the stage that are marked to show particularly weak places to avoid.
“This project is way more than just a bandshell, it’s incredibly exciting to me that we could attract theater, dance, small and large bands, both for Two Harbors, and from all around the area,” said Planten-Krell.
Throughout the pandemic some work has been slowed down, and the FOBSP realized that with the forced hiatus of the city band during the summer of 2020 members of the public may be wondering about the project’s progress, but work that Planten-Krell says “is mostly invisible” has gone on.
Some of the behind-the-scenes work already completed includes; property and soil surveys, and architectural work right up to the preconstruction process. The FOBSP has met regularly with the city to work out how the property will be managed, while it remains in city ownership.
The FOBSP has already purchased the property with a house and garage located on one corner of the park, and intend to have the buildings removed and transfer that site to the city’s ownership so that it can become part of the park.
The group says their vision is of creating a town square atmosphere, a space that is inviting to people who live here, and visitors from out of town.
The block will feature a north-facing performing arts building backdropped by Lake Superior, with an outdoor stage the same size as the existing bandshell, and an indoor stage for smaller performances. Restrooms, a ticket booth/office, additional office space, storage space, and a large hall that could accommodate gatherings like wedding receptions are also in the plans.
A key piece of the plans for the new building is to create space for other groups and individuals, such as dance, choral, and community gatherings.
“This is a whole different concept that is community building. We want to build something that will serve the community for the next hundred years,” said Planten-Krell.
In addition to the performing arts center, the project has commissioned conceptual drawings for landscaping that would create some terracing for the audience of the outdoor venue, as well as winding walkways, garden areas, foliage, and a small children’s playground.
Anderson says the most frequently asked question is about timing, and when the project will actually see construction.
“We are so close that if we could get the rest of the money together we would have the building finished in a year,” said Anderson.
The Friends of the Bandshell Park are urging community members to get in touch with them with any ideas, to participate in the project planning, or to help with donations. Visit their website for more information at:
https://friendsofthebandshellpark.com/, or call Al Anderson at (218) 830-9319.