If Cedar Rapids officials are hoping the new McGrath Amphitheatre Cedar Rapids on the banks of the westside of the Cedar River will be a hot new venue for the community to hear live music and experience other outdoor entertainment, they certainly got their wish at Friday’s grand opening.
Temperatures hovered just below 100 degrees as local band Shortcut to Nowhere kicked off the grand opening of the amphitheatre at 3:30 p.m.
A crowd of 50 or so had grown by the time the band played their last song and the second local group — Helforstout prepared to take the stage. Super Size Seven was scheduled to perform third starting at 6:30 p.m.
Despite the heat, the audience was growing as the working day closed in on quitting time downtown.
An hour in, though, Ann Bodensteiner of Cedar Rapids had had enough.
“We’d love to stay,” she said, “but it’s just too hot.”
Bodensteiner, a “friend and fan” of the first band, was at the opening with Kristin Price of Robins and Terri Braden of Cedar Rapids.
“Thank God there’s a breeze.” Price said. “I think (the ampitheater) is beautiful, but it needs some shade.”
To be fair, the space — designed to be connected to a Festival Grounds park area along Diagonal Drive SW, including a 14-foot-wide trail from the amphitheatre along the riverfront to the Festival Grounds — does include trees. They just need a few years before they’ll provide any shade.
Gene Felling, executive director of the city of Cedar Rapids’ entertainment venues managed by VenuWorks, said earlier this summer that the general admission capacity for the amphitheater is about 4,600. The amphitheater features some seats on permanent risers, though much of the seating will on the amphitheater lawn, which rises from the stage and will serve as a piece of the city’s west-side flood-protection system if and when it is built.
Felling has said that he hoped the amphitheater will attract acts who might perform on a Friday night at the Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater in Des Moines and the McGrath Amphitheater, Cedar Rapids on a Saturday. Among the acts to play at the Des Moines riverfront venue this summer were Dwight Yoakam, Brandi Carlile, Blues Traveler, Owl City and Hanson.
The first major concert at the venue, which wll double as a city park, is slated for next May.
“I did say when we were sitting over there that the view from here is beautiful,” Price said.