Winchendon Amphitheater opening around the corner

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 05-30-2023 5:18 PM

WINCHENDON – In less than two weeks, a new, $4 million entertainment venue will officially open.

Several years in the making, the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation Performing Arts Amphitheater at Winchendon Community Park will kick off the summer with a day-long grand opening event on Saturday, June 10.

The ribbon cutting for the facility is scheduled for 3 p.m. After brief statements by several speakers, the day’s entertainment kicks off at 3:15 p.m. with a performance by the Dance Center. This will be followed by music from Bodega Dog, Faceless Hobos, Kilroy, the Darren Bessette Band and Whiskey Johnson. There will also be a school theater performance along with magician Eddy Raymond. Fireworks will close out the celebration at 9 p.m.

Winchendon Recreation Director Tiffany Newton said events at the amphitheater have been scheduled throughout the summer. She added that the grand opening will feature food from the Kiwanis Club and the Harbor Restaurant, a barbecue pit from Not Just Produced, refreshment from Bull Spit Brewing, and a number of local vendors and family activities.

Seating for the facility is built into the hillside overlooking the stage, providing visitors not only with a great view of the performances but also of Whitney Pond. The park also offers a series of hiking trails through the wooded areas. A new paved parking area was added.

The architect for the amphitheater project is Abacus Architects and Planners of Boston, the general contractor is City Enterprise Inc. of Springfield, the landscape architect is Taylor David Landscape Company of Amherst, and the owner’s project manager is Atlantic Construction & Management.

Funds to build the amphitheater – all $4 million – came from the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation, established in 1984 to support community initiatives in Winchendon, as well as Stamford and Worcester, N.Y.

The road to the amphitheater’s completion began in 2013 with the formation of the Winchendon Enhancement Committee, a group of people chosen by Broadhurst to look at ways to improve the quality of life in the Toy Town.

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“They tasked us with doing a small project where the majority of the Town of Winchendon could enjoy it,” said Ken LaBrack, a member of the committee who sits on the foundation’s advisory board. “This is what it ended up being. But our first task was finding the property to do something.”

“Initially, we had a bunch of ideas,” said fellow committee member Dave Romanowski. “An art type resource downtown, a skate park possibly, a small community park, a dog park.”

“But every time we looked at something, we figured the majority of people weren’t going to use it,” LaBrack said. “How many people are going to use a skate park? How many are going to use a dog park? So, we kept coming up with more and more ideas.”

Romanowski explained that two major goals of the committee were to ensure that whatever type of facility built would be inter-generational and free to the community.

“We had all these projects, and they all looked good on paper,” he said. “But finding the resources, finding the land to incorporate it all was the tough part.”

In 2015, the town found the land when the private Winchendon School traded to the Town of Winchendon what was known as the Ingleside property—43 acres on the shores of Whitney Pond—in exchange for the Marvin School on Ash Street for use as faculty housing.

Last March, by vote of a Town Meeting, what had become known as the Winchendon Community Park Committee merged with the town’s Recreation Commission to become the Parks and Recreation Commission. In the interim, Broadhurst provided funding to purchase an eight-acre parcel abutting what is now the Winchendon Community Park. Ground was broken for construction of the amphitheater last May.

Winchendon Director of Public Works Brian Croteau came in last summer and provided oversight for the construction throughout the process.

“We couldn’t have done it without Brian and his crew,” said Romanowki. “And we couldn’t have done it without Tiffany getting the events and everything else scheduled. That’s a lot of work.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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