After being surrounded by gates to prepare for its demolition, the amphitheater at Carter Green will remain in place after all.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard announced the reversal Sept. 9 after receiving feedback from members of the Carmel Rotary Club and Carmel Farmers Market who were upset that they were not consulted about plans to replace the amphitheater with a permanent stage and seasonal winter pavilion.
“I take full responsibility for this lack of communication. I should have been more personally involved in confirming project details with those from (Clay) Township and the City (of Carmel) who were in charge of this process,” Brainard stated. “I needed to ensure that stakeholders in the community, including the Rotary Club and the Carmel Farmers Market, were consulted for their input much earlier. Decisions such as this must be based on discussions not with only the professionals on staff and outside consultants, but with respected stakeholders in the community.”
The Rotary Club donated $100,000 to the City of Carmel for the construction of the amphitheater as a gift to the community in honor of the international club’s centennial. The amphitheater, which is below street level, opened in 2011 and has primarily served as the performance venue for artists during the weekly Carmel Farmers Market.
But representatives of the Rotary Club and farmers market said they did not know of the city’s plans to replace the amphitheater with a stage until the last couple of weeks, when members of the project team let them know work would soon begin.
Judy Hagan, a past president of the Rotary Club, said she was disappointed that Brainard had not included the club in discussions about the project.
“What really hurts is the lack of respect for all the people who have done so much volunteer work for the city,” Hagan said.
The Rotary Club has managed several large projects at the request of the city, including the annual CarmelFest celebration and the Feed the Frontlines initiatives that benefited local hospital employees and restaurants in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The club also has supported the community through various other gifts and initiatives.
Carmel Farmers Market President Ron Carter, a former member of the Carmel City Council who often supported Brainard, said Brainard had previously mentioned to him the possibility of replacing the amphitheater, and each time Carter spoke against the idea. Carter said he didn’t realize it was an apparent done deal until he received a phone call from a city official in recent weeks to discuss logistics.
Carter said the amphitheater has been a perfect fit for the farmers market because of its ability to keep sound from the musicians in one area, provide natural seating and offer a contained area for children to dance and play. He said he attempted to work with the city to revise its plan.
“It was our suggestion that the amphitheater not be torn out, that the pavilion could still be erected over a temporary stage put in place over the amphitheater,” Carter said. “We felt that was a great compromise for all of us.”
Brainard stated that city officials are reviewing whether they will move forward with plans to construct the winter pavilion, which would be in place between November and March each year to provide space for performances and covered seating during the Christkindlmarkt and outdoor ice rink season. The pavilion structure would be in storage the rest of the year.