Check out new drawings of proposed $40 million Huntsville amphitheater
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The design process is still ongoing but renderings of the proposed $40 million Huntsville amphitheater released by the city on Thursday night gave a glimpse into the magnitude of the project beyond the price tag.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has talked of building a “world-class amphitheater” at the under-construction MidCity District off University Drive and the Roman architecture on display in the renderings reflect a plan that goes beyond an outdoor stage and a bank of seats on a hillside.

The renderings, though, were not a focus of the presentation by City Administrator John Hamilton to the city council at Thursday night's meeting.

Instead, the council voted 3-2 to turn the construction of the 8,000-seat amphitheater over to the Public Building Authority – a cost-free move at this point that will result in Battle’s administration nailing down specifics related to costs for the council to consider.

The amphitheater has been estimated to cost $35-40 million and the method of funding it has been a concern of the city council. The administration maintains it has adequate resources in a long-range capital improvements plan while council President Devyn Keith long pushed to raise the city's lodging tax to be earmarked for the project.

Keith has argued that the burden should be lessened on Huntsville taxpayers for a facility designed to attract out-of-town visitors, who should share in the cost of the amphitheater. The council approved Keith’s plan to raise the lodging tax but the plan died when Battle vetoed the council’s action and the council failed to override the veto.

At Thursday's meeting, council members both expressed concern about the city's financial standing given the shutdown of the economy due to the novel coronavirus while Battle and other council members said the city should push forward with the project without being hampered by fears of the economic fallout of the virus.

Battle has long touted the amphitheater as a key part of the region's effort to attract and maintain a strong workforce to fill the thousands of jobs that have been recruited to the area.

Transitioning the project to the public building authority – a plan in place before the coronavirus devastated the country – does not remove decision-making authority from the city council, Hamilton said. The council must still give the OK for each step moving the project forward.

The PBA will bring a more exact price tag for the amphitheater to the council for its consideration in late June at the earliest, Hamilton said.

Council members joining Keith in voting to shift the project to the PBA were Will Culver and Jennie Robinson. Frances Akridge and Bill Kling voted against it.


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