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Hall-Perrine Foundation Offers Match Grant for Marion's Lowe Park Amphitheater

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MARION, Iowa - With financing coming together for the amphitheater planned for Marion's Lowe Park, project supporters expect work to start next spring.

Project supporters will launch a fundraising effort Friday morning to match a $150,000 grant from the Cedar Rapids-based Hall-Perrine Foundation.

"This is pretty important for us, because we've got to match that" as a condition of the Hall-Perrine grant, said Vic Klopfenstein, a former mayor and co-chair of the fundraising campaign.

Matching the grant would bring financing to $1.3 million of the project's $1.7 million estimated cost. Other sources secured so far:

$75,000 over four years from Linn County's economic development fund.

$750,000 from Marion's local-option sales tax revenue.

$175,000 from the state's Iowa Great Places program.

The city has applied for another $250,000 from Great Places, Klopfenstein said. He said another major grant could be announced as early as next week.

If funding is secured the city would award contracts for construction to start next spring, with substantial completion by the end of 2013, said Mike Carolan, the city's interim parks and recreation director. He said grading for the amphitheater's bowl is already done.

The plan includes a 50-foot-wide stage under an oak leaf-themed canopy. The facility, which will include provisions for concessions vendors, will seat about 1,200, although it won't have seats. Spectators will bring lawn chairs and blankets for the grassy expanse, Carolan said.

The first performances would happen in spring 2014.

"Maybe some dance troupes, theater," Klopfenstein said. "We also see it as a site for weddings."

The park's sculpture trail will have its fourth work installed Nov. 21, said Dennis Frevert, chairman of the Marion Arts Council. That project began in 2009 with $65,000 in local-option revenues.

"With the addition of the amphitheater we're going to raise the scope, I think, and do some fundraising to buy more," said Frevert. "We're going for a mix of modern, abstract and realistic. The main criteria we look for is, we wanted the pieces to fit well in a prairie setting."

The amphitheater and sculpture walk are in the park's 100-acre "natural area" off 10th Street. There's an 80-acre recreational side with fields for softball, soccer, and football accessed of Alburnett Road.

The park project is the result of Imagine8, a 2009 program in which resident volunteers identified priority projects to improve Marion's future quality of life.

"We don't want to take away from the Uptown city park," said Klopfenstein. "We want those (events) to stay there. That's a nice intimate feeling that people have. This would be in addition to that."

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