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Arts will soon have a new venue outside New Circle

As development of the Beaumont area in south Lexington began to wind down a few years ago, developers Tim and Andy Haymaker knew they wanted to end with something big.

"We knew that we had to plan something that would be a significant legacy to the community for them having to live through 15 years of development," Tim Haymaker said.

Inside the huge Beaumont Centre Circle, the father and son thought first of a fountain. Scratch that. Too hard to maintain, father Tim said.

A piece of art. Nope. Not interactive enough, they said.

Their thoughts eventually turned to building an amphitheater, a project that is now just months away from completion and looks to bring more arts and entertainment outside New Circle Road.

Among those eyeing the venue are the city's Parks and Recreation division and LexArts. It's suitable for many others.

"It just opens up the possibility for more evening concerts in spaces that were actually designed for concerts," said University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey, who was consulted by the Haymakers for guidance.

Designed by architect Clive Pohl of Pohl Rosa Pohl, the amphitheater will seat 1,000 to 1,200 people on lawn chairs they bring.

Called MoonDance at Midnight Pass after a nearby street, the amphitheater is a welcome addition to the city's arts venues, said Jim Clark, president and CEO of LexArts, the United Arts Fund in Lexington.

"We need to have more things going on throughout Fayette County and be able to attract different audiences," said Clark, whose organization has been contracted by the Haymakers to handle ticketing and general management functions like booking events. "Certainly being close to New Circle Road will make that a very convenient place for people to go.

"It broadens the reach of our arts groups and also will provide a great space for community events."

Amber Luallen, cultural arts director for Parks and Recreation, said the organization is exploring ideas now of new events that could be at the amphitheater.

"We're looking at perhaps hosting a few concerts," she said, adding that one might be a blues festival like the organization had several years ago.

And the venue has already solved one problem that plagues other outdoor venues like some of the city's parks: parking.

Tim Haymaker said the businesses in the nearby office parks have agreed to let people park in their lots.

"We'll easily have a thousand parking spaces," he said.

Andy Haymaker noted, too, that Beaumont has a variety of retail businesses and restaurants, so visitors will have more to do after the show.

"I enjoy going downtown and like the downtown scene, but Lexington doesn't end at the edge of downtown," he said. "It's nice to have some things outside the circle."

Designing the venue

The project, which is costing more than $2 million, is situated on land donated by a trust affiliated with well-known businessman C.M. "Bill" Gatton.

As its design has progressed, the Haymakers have involved arts-minded people from throughout the city.

McCorvey offered tweaks to the design of the stage and performers' dressing rooms. City employees suggested a wood floor rather than concrete, the Haymakers said.

And computers got involved when they were deciding how to position the stage.

"There are programs you can run where you give dates and times of the year, and it will show you how the sun will be shining in a person's eyes," said Tim Haymaker, explaining that they hoped to reduce the possibility of sun being in both the performers' or audience's eyes. "You can't solve it for all times of year, but we've done the best we can."

The amphitheater will also have a small lighting and sound setup, so low-budget performers won't have to bring their own equipment. In addition to those, the Haymakers are also building a small ticket building at the front that will double as a place to sell concessions.

They've consulted with LexArts on the rates for the amphitheater and have made them "really competitive," Andy Haymaker said.

The amphitheater will be controlled by a non-profit that the Haymakers and another in their office will manage.

"We're the trustees because we want to make sure it's done right and maintenance is done," Tim Haymaker said. "This is not a money-making thing for us. All the money that comes in goes to operating expenses and repair work."

The venue is also suitable for corporate outings and festivals, and Tim Haymaker said he hopes to have international residents host festivals honoring their cultures. Those could culminate, he said, in an international festival to be held later in the year.

And the various festivals in mind could also showcase the talent of the neighborhood's residents.

Tommy Todd, a Lexington attorney who lives in Beaumont Reserve, is excited for the opportunity the venue could give to his daughter, Ellie, who goes to the School for the Creative and Performing Arts and dreams of being on Broadway.

"She's thrilled to have something in her neighborhood," he said.

And Bob Quick, president of Commerce Lexington, has three children in orchestra.

"It's a great venue to show off our talent, not just our kids', but adults' as well," he said.

Said Tim Haymaker: "We think we're going to create a real success story."