Picnic with the Pops will give $1.2 million toward the construction of an outdoor amphitheater and concert space that would hold more than 5,000 people in the proposed Town Branch Park, city officials announced Tuesday.
With Tuesday's $1.2 million donation, the total amount raised for the proposed 10-acre downtown park now totals $7.2 million, still short of the overall goal of more than $22 million needed to start construction on the park.
Picnic with the Pops, an annual tradition started in the 1980s, has been socking away money for nearly four decades with the goal of building a permanent outdoor amphitheater for the Lexington Philharmonic's outdoor picnic and concert. It will be held at Keeneland this year.
Plans for the proposed Town Branch Park have long included an amphitheater and green space that would allow seating for more than 5,000 people. It's an ideal permanent home for the event, now in its 38th year, said Kip Cornett, president of the Picnic with the Pops Commission.
The arts have long been part of the overall programming and vision for the new park. Art and music should be accessible to all people, said Ann Bakhaus, chairwoman of the Town Branch Park Advisory Board, which has the job of raising the more than $22 million the park needs to start construction in the next few years.
"This exciting investment creates a tremendous opportunity for outdoor performing arts as a focal point for the park and for the entire community," Bakhaus said.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said former Mayor Jim Amato and Tom Minter, the former director of the Lexington Center and long-time president of the Picnic with the Pops Commission, had the foresight nearly 40 years ago to start setting aside money for a permanent outdoor performing arts space.
"Thousands of people who have enjoyed this favorite Lexington tradition will be making a contribution to a permanent home for it, an amphitheater downtown in Town Branch Park," Gray said.
A start date for construction on the Town Branch Park has not been announced.
The proposed 10-acre park includes a children’s play area, art installations, a dog park, trails and interactive water features. The city has said private funds will be used to build the park, which will be part of the Town Branch Commons trail. The trail will go through downtown and connect the city’s two longest trails, the Town Branch trail and the Legacy Trail.
The park would be located in what is now a parking lot behind Rupp Arena, between Jefferson Street and Oliver Lewis Way. That lot will likely be used as a staging area for construction of the convention center.