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June 25, 2020

Bowl in the Pines amphitheater renovation gets $475K USDA loan

Courtesy / Snow Pond Center for the Arts A rendering shows the completed renovations at the Bowl in the Pines at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts, in Sidney.
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The ongoing renovation of the historic Bowl in the Pines ampitheater, at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney, will be completed this year with a boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The $675,000 project was awarded a USDA Community Facilities Loan of $475,000, which will help complete the renovation that began two years ago. The project has added parking, lighting and infrastructure that will support larger national acts on the outdoor stage on the shore of Messalonskee Lake.

The work also includes expanding the seating capacity from 2,000 to 6,800.

“Snow Pond’s historic bowl is a key component of an overall capital improvement program designed to increase our capacity to bring a range of benefits and opportunities to residents, visitors, and businesses here in the Central Maine community," John Wiggin, executive director of Snow Pond Center for the Arts, said in a news release.

The upgrade to the Bowl in the Pines is part of more than $6 million in renovations on the 175-acre campus on Messalonskee Lake that is home to the Maine Arts Academy and the New England Music Camp, and also hosts a variety of community arts and music programs. 

The amphitheater is one of the largest permanent outdoor stages in the U.S. and is known for its acoustics. The final improvements include upgraded power and rigging needed for larger scale shows, new concession areas, expanded parking, ADA-compliant bathrooms, landscaping and permeable pavers installed in patio areas and in front of the 101-foot-wide stage.

Work has also included widening the entrance, on Route 23, and adding up to 3,000 parking spaces. Snow Pond officials said they are also working with area property owners to provide parking and shuttles to events.

Snow Pond theater
Courtesy / Snow Pond Center for the Arts
Upgrades to the Bowl in the Pines amphitheater at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney, seen here before recent upgrades, are expected to boost the economy of the Belgrade Lakes region and nearby Waterville and Augusta.

The work is slated to be completed this summer or fall, and the upgrades will allow bigger-name shows to play at site. Beginning next year, the venue is expected to host eight to 10 ticketed events a year, along with 14 free concerts.

Once the work is complete, Snow Pond officials said that the venue will increase tourism and area visibility to the area, which is in the Belgrade Lakes region, between Augusta and Waterville. Concerts and other events at the venue are expected to draw audiences from beyond Maine. Overall revenues to area communities, outside of Snow Pond, are initially estimated to be in the range of $525,000, $675,000 the first year shows are scheduled there, and ramping up to $1.2 million in three or four years.

"Snow Pond is committed to bringing a diverse and eclectic mix of performers across all genres to the Belgrade Lakes region, filling a gap between Portland and Bangor," said Christa Johnson, director of development.

Snow Pond Center for the Arts also got a USDA Community Facilities Loan two years ago to complete its 6,200-square-foot Learning & Innovation Center.

The nonprofit Snow Pond Center for the Arts, which began on the site in the 1930s at the New England Music Camp, in the past few years has added a music festival, a summer concert series, adult music camp, community music school, the after-school program and the arts academy, which opened as a charter high school four years ago.

Recently, it has also launched an outdoor restaurant, with weekend community meals and takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in making the announcement about the most recent USDA loan, said, “Snow Pond Center for the Arts is a cultural destination that is committed to maintaining our state’s vibrant music scene through performances by talented artists and educational workshops. This investment by USDA will enable the Center to complete its expansive outdoor concert venue and continue to serve as a great asset to Central Maine."

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