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July 8, 2019

Bowl in the Pines renovation gets boost from Kennebec Savings Bank

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 renovation to the historic Bowl in the Pines amphitheater in Sidney got a boost with a $25,000 donation from Kennebec Savings Bank.

The $675,000 renovation to the 89-year-old outdoor stage and its seating area, parking and access is expected to be completed, by next summer. The amphitheater is part of the Snow Pond Center for the Arts campus on Route 23 in Sidney.

“We are incredibly grateful to Kennebec Savings Bank in support of the Bowl in the Pines project," said John Wiggin, executive director of Snow Pond, in a news release. "This gift will have a major impact on the renovation of this historic outdoor amphitheater and ultimately supports a project that will benefit the entire central Maine community."

Andrew Silsby, the bank's president and CEO, said the amphitheater is a "historic gem."

“We are pleased to provide our support of this important renovation project that will bring even more opportunities for people to enjoy the arts in central Maine.”

The bank's check was presented June 29 on the amphitheater stage at a "Broadway Under the Stars" performance of the Snow Pond Chamber Orchestra, as well as New England Music Camp musicians, which kicked of the center's 2019 summer concert season.

The Bowl in the Pines was built in 1930 and is still one of the nation’s largest outdoor stages, according to Snow Pond officials.

The additional infrastructure, which includes power and gear for lights and sound equipment, will allow Snow Pond to accommodate larger-scale events starting next summer. Snow Pond will scale up to accommodate audiences of up to 7,500 over the next four years, said Christa Johnson, director of development. Before renovations began last year, it accommodated 2,000.

The venue can also accommodate parking for up to 3,000 and is in discussions with area sites about off-site parking arrangements and shuttle logistics, she said. 

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Participants in the Snow Pond Center for the Arts after school program give a drum roll as Snow Pond Executive Director John Wiggin cuts the ribbon at the new Learning & Innovation Center in October.

Boosting the region

The upgrade is aimed at increasing tourism and area visibility and concerts and other events at the venue are expected to draw audiences from beyond Maine, Snow Pond officials have said. Those audiences, Wiggin and Johnson have said, will also spend money in the region. 

The Snow Pond Center for the Arts, which includes the Snow Pond Arts Academy charter school, is on Messalonskee Lake and part of the Belgrade Lakes region, between Waterville and Augusta.

"A thriving cultural scene attracts visitors who not only spend their money on the events themselves, but also contribute to local economies by dining in restaurants, lodging in hotels and purchasing gifts and services in the community," according to the news release. The benefit to area businesses is an average $31.38 spent by each ticket holder, according to "Arts and Economic Prosperity, a project of Americans for the Arts," the release said.

Conservative projections by the arts center are five concerts in the 2020 season with total attendance of 9,000; six in 2021, with a total attendance of 14,000; seven in 2022 with total attendance of 21,000; and eight in 2023, with total attendance of 30,400.

New England Music Camp, which is held on the Snow Pond campus every summer, also holds two ticketed events a year that draw approximately 1,250 each, along with 10 free concerts that draw approximately 500 patrons each, for a total of 7,500 additional guests per summer.

Overall revenues to the local communities, outside of Snow Pond, are estimated to be in the range of $525,000, $675,000, $900,000 and $1.2 million respectively for years 2020 to 2023, Johnson said.

Much of the renovation, designed by Carla Haskell, of Design Group Collaborative in Ellsworth, is completed, including expanding the stage and adding power poles, a transformer and other infrastructure for electricity and lights.

A major electrical upgrade by Central Maine Power Co. will also include wiring the stage for audio-visual use.

The entrance to the bowl, on Route 23, has been widened to ease bottlenecks.

The renovation is part of wider expansion to the campus, which also includes the Snow Pond Learning & Innovation Center, was completed last year and houses many functions of the charter school as well as after-school programs for area youth.

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