Richfield bandshell backers reach out to Best Buy

Those trying to build a new music venue in Richfield hope the facility will have a nice ring to it.

How does Best Buy Bandshell sound?

Preliminary plans are underway to construct a $1 million bandshell in Richfield’s Veterans Memorial park — hopefully with the help of the electronics super-retailer that calls Richfield home. Unofficially, the city has already committed $250,000 to the facility, and those backing the project are looking to Best Buy to help pay for the rest.

There is reason to believe the company’s interest in helping pay for the facility is strong, said David Butler, a member of the Richfield Arts Commission who is one of those leading the effort to build the bandshell.

Best Buy representatives were told that Richfield would need to raise another $750,000 for the project, “and they didn’t balk and say, ‘Go home,’” Butler told the Richfield City Council during a work session last month. “They said, ‘Yeah, we’re interested.’ And they talked about naming rights.”

But before Best Buy commits to anything, the city has to officially approve the project. A series of meetings and studies are in the works with this aim.

A study of finances and community interest is to be done by Dec. 30, Butler said. The community services commission will likely conduct a public hearing before the end of the year, in time for Jan. 8, a date that has been targeted to have a resolution before the city council to officially commit the $250,000, kicking off the project and fundraising efforts in earnest.

The city council would be approving a project, however, that presently is surrounded by numerous questions. Much of them revolve around the issue of noise.

At Veterans Memorial Park, east of the ice rink off 66th Street, the bandshell would be subject to some degree of airplane noise, which Butler said is a fact of life. “If you’re going to be in Richfield, you’re going to have airplane noise,” he reasoned. “So it’s a question of which is the least undesirable site.”

Butler said he researched other bandshell locations including Lake Harriet, and “it was determined by our committee that there is less noise here than there is over Lake Harriet.”

How people would respond to the noise will vary, Butler predicted. “Some people might say it’s terrible; others might say, ‘Well this is a fact of life,’” Butler said.

Airport plans to change flight paths may improve the sound conditions, Councilmember Tom Fitzhenry said. “It looks like (air traffic) will all be going down the cross-town (Highway 62),” instead of over the park, he said.

Also, the air traffic there after 8 p.m. currently consists mainly of landings, which are quieter than takeoffs, added Fitzhenry, who represents Richfield on the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s Noise Oversight Committee.

There is also the question of whether the neighborhood surrounding Veterans Park would be on board, and how loud the bandshell itself will be, Fitzhenry noted.

The workings

Should the money be raised and necessary public support come through, the bandshell would provide a home to Richfield’s summer concert series, which currently uses Augsburg Park. The bandshell would host 20 concerts each summer, according to Parks and Recreation Director Jim Topitzhofer, 10 of which would be Thursday nights.

The other 10 would be daytime concerts for children. Those concerts were more popular than the nighttime concerts this summer, according to Topitzhofer.

The city would employ one seasonal staff member to operate the bandshell during the performances. For $14 an hour the employee would operate sound equipment and be responsible for housekeeping during the shows.

Although the parks and recreation department learned that similar facilities in Red Wing and St. Paul employ two staff members, Topitzhofer said he believes the Richfield bandshell would get by with just one.

Based on maintenance costs for average park buildings, $750 is preliminarily budgeted to take care of the bandshell each year, a figure Councilmember Pat Elliott questioned.

“I’m having a hard time with $750 in maintenance on a million dollar facility,” Elliott told Topitzhofer. “It seems to me that if you’re going to put a million dollar facility in, you’re going to take care of it like it’s a million dollar facility.”

Bandshells like the one planned consist mainly of cement and steel and require “very little maintenance,” Butler said.

Even so, Topitzhofer conceded, “$750, yeah, we’re probably going to need a little more than that.”

He said he is trying to keep costs down. “We’re trying to be upfront with what the costs are but we’re trying to do it in a way that’s not going to break the bank,” Topitzhofer said.

Regarding funds, and any Best Buy contribution, Butler said, “They did give us a dollar amount but I’m hesitant to say.”

He reported he got a letter from his Best Buy contact saying new leadership at the company has “told everybody to reduce their budgets,” lending some uncertainty to a potential contribution amount. “What will happen by next June, I don’t know.”

Still, Butler is hopeful. “When anybody thinks they have enough money in the thing to get naming rights, you know they’re serious,” he told the city council during the work session.

“If we didn’t have that kind of seriousness I don’t think I’d be here today.”

Without a firm commitment, Best Buy has invited the city to submit a grant application, with a Feb. 1 deadline.