ESTEVAN - Spruce Ridge School wants to add an amphitheatre to its playground area that would not only be a big addition for students, but for the community as a whole.
The facility, which would be the first of its kind within city limits, would be a place to gather to practise, perform and watch shows in an outdoor setting.
In a letter to Estevan city council, sent for the Feb. 14 meeting, principal Cheri Haberstock said it would serve as an outdoor classroom, particularly for band or arts education classes; a formal performance area for the performing arts at the school; a meeting area for extracurricular groups; an informal gathering place for students; a space for various community groups to meet or practise after school, weekends and during the summer; and it would be a unique addition around the community.
Haberstock was looking for an endorsement from council to help with an application to the Co-op Community Spaces program, rather than financial support.
She noted that due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, outdoor learning spaces are in greater demand. The school and community have numerous outdoor sports venues, but no outdoor performance areas.
“Our teachers and students enjoy taking advantage of opportunities to go outside for learning activities,” Haberstock said. “They are excited at the prospect of having another area to gather and learn together in the fresh air and sunshine.”
The amphitheatre would be built out of concrete and reinforced with rebar. It will consist of a round performance area, with a diameter of 25 feet, and four rounded steps for students to sit on with a width and height of two feet each. The structure will be built into the side of a hill behind the school.
Local contractor 5-Star Concrete was chosen to complete the project for $61,050, including all materials and labour costs. Construction is slated to begin in the spring or early summer of 2022, and Haberstock hopes it can be ready for the start of the school year in September.
To date, the school has received $2,850 in donations from local businesses and individuals, and it has fundraised more than $20,000.
“We’re really putting it out there. Now is the time where we can start applying for grants. Our SCC (school community council) is starting to get really active in talking to businesses and seeing if we can get some corporate donations going, because that will really, really help us out,” said Haberstock.
The money does not need to all be in place before construction begins, and they would continue fundraising after it is finished, but Haberstock said it would be nice to have the necessary funds.
Haberstock said the school has found that when students are outside and in the fresh air, learning is so much better, especially compared to when they have been wearing masks while indoors.
“Our SCC (school community council) put up some gazebos in the past, and last year we put picnic tables under them, and I know in the fall and in the spring, they have been just wonderful for kids to go out and learn,” said Haberstock.
Spruce Ridge started planning for the amphitheatre last year, and wanted to have it in place back then, but a number of factors kept it from proceeding, such as a lack of funds. So they shelved it to this year, giving them more opportunities to fundraise and build excitement.
There would not be a cost for those in the community to rent the amphitheatre.
“It’s going to be open to the public like our playground is after school hours and in the evenings and weekends,” said Haberstock.
People are excited about the project because there isn’t such a facility in Estevan.
“We have a lot of musical and dramatic talent and dance talent in this community, and it would be nice to have an outdoor space to do that,” said Haberstock.
Council approved the request for verbal support with members also expressing their desire to see the facility constructed. Councillor Rebecca Foord said this aligns well with what they’ve been discussing for downtown revitalization in their meetings with Doug Griffiths of 13 Ways Consulting.
“I know the term amphitheatre has come up a number of times in various things,” said Foord.
In the future, Councillor Shelly Veroba said this could get the kids to be excited to be outdoors, particularly when it comes to music programs.