With the backing of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, the state parks department is planning to build a wooden gazebo-style stage at the southern end of the Pilgrim Memorial State Park, to be used for public performances and programs.
An elliptical structure planned to be 45 feet long, 20 feet wide, 18 feet high, and 850 square feet in area, the structure is intended to be a permanent replacement for the mobile bandstand that has been used for decades to hold popular outdoor concerts and other events on the Plymouth waterfront.
The project is being funded by a $200,000 donation from the Plymouth Industrial Development Corporation, which accrued the money from land sales to commercial developers in the town’s industrial park.
Pilgrim Memorial State Park is a grassy stretch with native plantings on the waterfront that wraps around Plymouth Rock and takes in some property on both sides of Water Street. One of the smallest of the state’s parks at only 7 acres, it’s also one of the busiest as a magnet for tourists drawn to the place of the Pilgrims’ landing.
The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation manages the park and presents 165 interpretive programs there a year. The DCR estimates more than 1 million people visit it annually.
The stage will be built on the south section of the park’s two half-moons of grassy waterfront property, the same site where a worn mobile stage (called the “showmobile”) has hosted concerts for decades, including the Project Arts summer evening concerts. The new structure is scheduled to be completed by mid-June.
Local music producer Mike Landers, who produces the waterfront concerts for the nonprofit Project Arts of Plymouth, said the permanent structure will be a big upgrade over the mobile stage — especially the new underground wiring with increased electric service.
“Sound companies will be able to plug in directly to the leads on stage rather than stringing wires” to reach the nearest service, as they do with the mobile stage, Landers said.
But Landers expressed concern over sound quality.
“From what they show in the plans, it looks like a gazebo,” a roofed building typically open on all sides, Landers said. “A gazebo is tough for sound. . . . It gets trapped in the upper level.”
Project Arts board member and treasurer Donna Osborn of Plymouth, who attended a DCR public meeting held in February, said the sound question worries her, too, because the structure’s design is an “open theater” lacking the back wall that an indoor stage or the mobile stage offered.
S.J. Port, a spokeswoman for the DCR, said last week that the agency “is working with Plymouth residents and community members to determine the best design and materials.”
“Nothing is final yet,” Port added.
“They’re talking about putting baffles on the back side,” Osborn said. Baffles made of a thick material to reflect sound toward an audience are often hung from the ceiling or mounted on stages in musical venues to improve sound quality.
The DCR said the amphitheater would consist of wood pieces, laminated beams, and stone facing along its foundation. New native plantings would cover land disturbed in construction.
According to its presentation at the Plymouth meeting, the DCR said the project would “provide a focal point for public special events and interpretive programming.” The size and style of the permanent structure “is in keeping with the surrounding landscape and aesthetics of the park,” the presentation stated.
The state’s plan calls for preparation work in April and construction in May before completion in June.
Landers said DCR officials told him that the new structure would not lead them to increase their standard fee for using the park for concerts. In compliance with statewide rules, the fee includes security personnel that Landers does not believe are needed for the “family atmosphere” of the waterfront concerts. Last year’s fees for the weekly summer concert series totaled $7,500, a significant expense for a volunteer group that raises money through donations, he said.
The park site is also used by the Chamber of Commerce for its annual Harborfest in August and for a Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association fund-raiser. The local American Legion big band also performs a summer weekly concert series there.