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Gering council ponders fate of city band shell
February 17, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Gering City Council members this week will continue to discuss the future of the city band shell in Gering's Legion Park, built in the 1950s.

Gering City Council members this week will continue to discuss the future of the city band shell in Gering's Legion Park. The city's Recreation, Amusement & Cultural Committee will meet on Tuesday February 18, at 4:30 p.m. where committee members and city staff will further discuss the restrooms and band shell at Legion Park.

A special meeting is then scheduled at noon on Thursday where city council members will hear public input before a final decision is rendered.

Meeting on Feb. 12, the Gering Public Works Committee recommended removing the band shell in Legion Park as part of rebuilding the bathrooms.

The winning bid to build new bathrooms was on the agenda at the Feb. 10 city council meeting. But council member Larry Gibbs recommended the project be tabled until more public input could be gathered.

The surrounding houses face the park on three sides, but they face north and south on the east side, where the bathrooms are located. “I think moving the bathrooms to another part of the park would affect someone’s view,” committee member Dan Smith said. “That was one of the reasons to keep them where they were. And if we moved it closer to 12th Street, we’d have to remove several nice, large trees.”

During the rebuilding project, the main sewer line that runs through the area should also be replaced, as the current one was installed prior to 1920.

Don Gentry of the Parks Board said the band shell, which includes a storage area, was built in the 1950s. Moving the bathrooms to another area of the park would add the expense of moving the sewer and electrical lines. Another disadvantage to the band shell is that it faces west, so the afternoon sun makes the structure very hot.
“The band shell was used a lot during Oregon Trail Days when I was a kid,” Gentry said. “But many of the large surrounding trees were elms that died off back in the ‘90s.”

He added that most people don’t want to use the band shell because of the summer heat, so they bring in their own trailer. About the only time it’s used is when the Gering City Band plays there during the summer.

“The band shell is an old structure, but it doesn’t have any historic value,” Smith told committee members. “It’s basically a brick wall with a cement platform. The platform has been broken up by tree roots and needs to be replaced.”

Smith recommended the city demolish the entire structure and rebuild the bathrooms. A band shell or gazebo type structure could then be built in another part of the park.

Gentry said the new bathrooms would need to be larger to accommodate handicap access. His committee also recommended demolition, with a possible new band shell or gazebo at a later date because there’s insufficient budgeting to do both.

Deb Raines, representing the Gering City Band, said they didn’t want to put in a position of not having a venue where they can perform for their traditional audience. That audience is primarily the elderly, who walk to Legion Park from the surrounding neighborhood for the band’s Thursday evening performances during the summer months.

Smith said he talked with Gering City Band Director Randy Raines, who said if the band shell were demolished; the band would like to reserve Five Rocks Amphitheater for the last two Thursdays of June and the first three in July.

However, Five Rocks has a similar problem to Legion Park – the stage faces west and is subject to hot afternoons. Also, the amphitheater is south of Gering and wouldn’t be within walking distance for many attendees.

Ultimately, the decision will be made by the Gering City Council, which will meet in special session on Thursday, Feb. 20 at noon at City Hall. Public comment will be accepted during that meeting.
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