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Long’s Park Amphitheater continues renovations, upgrades

One of Lancaster’s best-known performing-arts venues is in the midst of a makeover.

One of Lancaster’s best-known performing-arts venues is in the midst of a makeover.

Lancaster-based Wickersham Construction and Engineering Inc., which built the Long’s Park Amphitheater in the early 1960s, has partnered with the nonprofit Long’s Park Amphitheater Foundation to renovate the aging structure.

The amphitheater hosts a series of free outdoor concerts every summer, which draw an estimated 100,000 visitors to the Harrisburg Pike venue each year.

The city of Lancaster owns the park, but the Long’s Park Amphitheater Foundation and the Sertoma Club of Lancaster take care of most ongoing operations.

“This is a jewel to the city of Lancaster that needs to be maintained and upgraded to fulfill the needs of the arts well into the future,” said Doug Cherry, Wickersham’s director of business development.

Wickersham last fall finished repairing and replacing the amphitheater’s roof, the coating of which had begun to separate from the structure’s edge.

“It was pretty bad,” said Brad Singer, chairman of the foundation’s property committee.

“If it had gone much further, we would have had substructure damage to the entire building. The back roof needed to be completely replaced.”

Bids for the roof repairs initially came in at about $65,000, but Wickersham was able to do the work for $35,000 to $37,000, Singer said.

Of that total, $20,000 came from a state Department of Community & Economic Development grant, $3,500 came from Wickersham and the balance from the foundation’s coffers and corporate sponsorships, Singer said.

Wickersham was able to help reduce costs for the foundation in exchange for the foundation featuring Wickersham in its promotional materials, Cherry said.

The foundation also worked with East Lampeter Township-based Yarnell Security Systems to upgrade the building’s alarm system at a cost of slightly less than $1,000, which the foundation covered. The system is very important given the amphitheater is only in use three months per year, Singer said. 

Two more improvements at the amphitheater are slated to begin this spring, he said: repainting the structure to help weatherproof it and renovating the dressing rooms.

Members of the Lancaster chapter of the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, Lancaster chapter, will paint for free, Singer said.

Secondly, the foundation is considering adding air conditioning and humidity control to the amphitheater’s 200- to 300-foot dressing area. Wickersham is performing a free feasibility study on the renovations, Cherry said.

Singer estimated the project likely would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 and that the foundation plans to launch a fundraising effort to cover the expense.

Revamping and refreshing the amphitheater won’t necessarily change the type of acts that perform there, but it will help attract artists to the venue and make negotiations with them easier, said Stella Sexton, director of the summer concert series for the foundation.

During the past few years, the amphitheater has hosted nationally known acts such as Los Lobos, Shemekia Copeland and The Bacon Brothers, as well as the venue’s popular annual Independence Day concert, with fireworks and cannon fire.

“Obviously, the facilities make our show,” Sexton said. “Just having a professional-looking building and keeping that building nice lends a lot to the atmosphere and people’s impressions.”

Sexton said the foundation in early May will release the lineup for this summer’s series, which is funded entirely by private donations and grants.

She said she’s “cautiously optimistic” concerning funding this year’s series.

“We run on a shoestring,” she said. “The people in our crowds are very generous.”

Other amphitheaters in the area that host performing arts include the Levitt Pavilion at Reservoir Park in Harrisburg and one planned for the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art near Millersburg.

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