Samuels Library in Front Royal could add an outdoor amphitheater to its amenities.
Library representatives spoke to the Warren County Board of Supervisors at a work session this week. Samuels Library Executive Director Michelle Ross and Melody Hotek, president of the Friends of the Samuels Library board of directors, presented information about the idea — possible designs, uses, cost estimates and fundraising efforts.
The hill between the library and Ressie Jeffries Elementary School would serve as the location of the outdoor amphitheater. The land lies on Ressie Jeffries property owned by the Warren County School Board.
Hotek envisions low rock walls installed in tiers up the hillside to serve as permanent seating. The seats would face the covered stage at the bottom of the hill.
Children from the school often walk the path down the hill to the library for storytime, Hotek said.
“Well, I’ve been walking by for years and years now and every time I walk by this hillside it just calls out to me: ‘you need an amphitheater; this needs to be an amphitheater,’” Hotek said. “So this has been my personal passion.
“I see this hillside and I picture children from the school using the space for outdoor learning,” she continued. “I see the library’s children’s department holding programs about dinosaurs, magicians, animals and puppet shows.”
Hotek said she could see and hear musical performances by local groups. The library hosts programs put on by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute near Front Royal, the Appalachian Trail Community and other organizations.
The library sees thousands of visitors and patrons each year, Hotek said.
The library intends to expand its gathering space and make use of the facility’s property to the west of the building. The library would use the amphitheater for children’s programs, music and theater presentations and science and nature programs.
The facility would likely include three levels of seating with steps to navigate to each tier, aisles spaced for mowers and trees planted for shade. The open stage on a concrete slab would include a roof and electrical outlets. Hotek included in her presentation examples of outdoor amphitheaters, the nearest one at the Northern Fauquier Community Park in Marshall.
Ross cited a recent article that highlighted the importance of outdoor spaces to library programming. The library’s recently installed children’s garden provides a limited space where they put on gardening programs and other events, Ross noted. The garden area does not provide enough space for larger events such as performances, she said.
The community, not just the library, could use the amphitheater, Ross said.
The Samuels Library Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Samuels Library Board of Directors have shown support for the proposal, Ross said.
The library would need permission from the Warren County School Board to move forward with the project.
Hotek’s brother-in-law Dan Hotek would design the amphitheater. He runs Dan Hotek Engineering Techniques Inc., and has worked with the county on various projects. The library received a contribution from her late husband Jeff Hotek’s estate, which provided seed money for the project. The library officials also applied for two grants and intend to seek sponsors for the project.
The children’s garden cost approximately $50,000. The library received its first quote for the pavilion of approximately $18,500 but Hotek said they estimate the project could cost roughly $50,000-$60,000. The library has raised about half that amount. Library representatives are waiting to see what the county plans to do. The long-term parks and recreation plan suggests the creation of an amphitheater in another part of the county. Hotek said she would rather see an amphitheater at the library given the number of people who live in that part of the county.
Shenandoah District Supervisor Walter J. Mabe asked how long the project would take and when the library wanted to complete the facility. Hotek didn’t give a precise time frame but said they want to start the design and construction as soon as possible once they receive permission from the School Board.