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The Blue & Gray Press | April 22, 2018

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A new day for the amphitheater



click photo for larger view

Built in 1913, the amphitheater is an iconic landmark at the University of Mary Washington. Though casually frequented by students, the secluded area was not officially used by the University since the 1960s and has since fallen into disarray. Last Friday, the University announced a plan to the Board of Visitors (BOV) to restore the amphitheater to its former glory.

The plan is in the early stages, as Torre Meringolo, vice president for advancement and university relations, is seeking donations for the project. Meringolo estimates that the school needs $3 million to complete the project. However, the goal is to restore the facility so that it may be used for official school events.

The school contracted with the Charlottesville architectural firm Train & Partners to create various plans for the restoration. Changes would include making it accessible to students with disabilities, making the space more weather resistant and repairing the structural soundness of the facility.

Currently, the amphitheater is not compliant with the American Disabilities Act, making it difficult for students with impairments to use the area.

In its prime, the amphitheater was used for various school events, such as concerts, plays, graduations and the annual May Day Ceremony. However, over the years it fell into a state of disrepair until 1994, when students campaigned to save the location after the school discussed demolishing it.

This student movement resulted in the school allocating $40,000 in 1997 to clean the amphitheater and make it safer for students. Aside from occasional maintenance, this is the last time any substantial work was done on the area.
The desire to renovate may have been prompted by the 2010 incident when two Stafford County Marines were injured while using the amphitheater recreationally. While attempting to string a hammock, a column collapsed on the two marines and resulted in the men being taken to the Mary Washington Hospital.

While the amphitheatre is a favorite spot for students to enjoy warm weather, take photos and even get outside to do some homework, many students feel that the area deserves to be used regularly once more.

“I love the idea of the renovation,” said senior Emily Anderson, a historic preservation major. “It used to hold the commencement ceremony, and while I don’t think that’s possible again because of the size of the school, I think events could be held there like ring ceremonies and the freshman honor convocation.”

Currently the school has raised $1 million in donations for the project. According to Meringolo, the school hopes to have all the necessary funds by June 2016.