Cedar Rapids Eyes Vision Iowa to Help with the $8.7 Million Riverfront Amphitheater

By Rick Smith, Reporter

This drawing shows the proposed amphitheater for the west bank of the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Credit: Sasaki Associates Inc.) (Latest drawing, as of April 2010)

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By Kelli Sutterman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The city’s riverfront amphitheater project has moved a step closer to securing a grant from the Vision Iowa Board’s River Enhancement Community Attraction and Tourism (RECAT) program.

A committee of the Vision Iowa Board on Wednesday approved the project and asked the city to enter negotiations with the board on a grant, a final decision on which should be made in March.

The city is seeking $2 million to go with other funding for the $8.7-million amphitheater project. The outdoor facility, planned for the west bank of the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids, doubles as an entertainment venue and part of the city’s new flood-protection system.

Mayor Ron Corbett, who was among Cedar Rapids officials who attended the Vision Iowa Board meeting on Wednesday, said he was optimistic that the amphitheater will secure the state funds.

On Wednesday, the city also made a first presentation on a second city project in which it is seeking to secure $8 million in funding from Vision Iowa’s Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) program for the city’s Third Street SE arts, cultural and entertainment district. Of the $8 million, $5 million is intended for the new Convention Complex, $1.5 million for the new library and $1.5 million for the new NewBo City Market.

Corbett said the Vision Iowa Board isn’t committing funds for new applications like this one until the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad determine if the Vision Iowa program will continue.

At the meeting’s start, Regenia Bailey, chairwoman of the Vision Iowa Board and an Iowa City City Council member, announced that she had suspended applications for CAT projects due to an uncertain fiscal future for the grant program.

Currently, the board has $2.5 million left in its budget for CAT programs with $23.5 million in outstanding requests and $8.6 million in the RECAT program with $5.18 million in outstanding requests.

Even with no hope of immediate funding, a Cedar Rapids delegation — which included Corbett, Sarah Ordover, NewBo City Market board president, Bob Pasicznyuk, the city’s library director, and more than two dozen others — pitched the Third Street SE project to the board. The presentation included a video promoting the year-round NewBo City Market.

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