Downtown Kalamazoo outdoor entertainment venue eyed for improvements

KALAMAZOO, MI -- A centrally located park that hosts live music and festivals could be reimagined as part of a new proposal coming from city hall.

Arcadia Creek Festival Place, an outdoor venue in the city’s downtown that has hosted concerts and festivals since it was built in 2004, would undergo improvements as part of a larger city initiative. If the plan for the festival site improvements is finalized, the two canopies would be replaced in the first phase pf work, and eventually the stage could be rebuilt in a different spot on the site, among other upgrades.

The proposed Arcadia Creek Festival Place improvements are part of the city’s plan to better connect the community’s downtown attractions.

The plan is to create “cool” connections to different attractions downtown, and also improve those attractions, to encourage walking and biking, helping the city realize the potential of downtown, Assistant City Manager Rebekah Kik told MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette.

With the improvements to the festival grounds, Kik says she wants festival attendees to be able to see the interesting connections to other “centers of gravity” downtown. They plan to use lighting improvements, public art and other ideas to make the connections between downtown destinations more interesting, she said.

The improvements at the outdoor festival site, once completed, would immediately help organizers hosting concerts and festivals.

“We’re talking about potentially being able to make the area more secure,” Kik said, including fencing the site and closing it at dusk, reopening it for public access in the mornings. That would help event organizers who have a liquor license because of requirements to restrict access to the site, she said. Event organizers have had to put up temporary fencing for past events, she said.

“Additionally, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy cleaning the site this past summer,” Kik said. “We’re hoping that also by controlling access to the site, it can stay cleaner.”

After that first phase, longer-term upgrades are on the city’s radar, including the stage.

The park’s stage could be slated for reconstruction in the coming years, Kik said.

City officials have talked about a new configuration that would allow attendees to overlook the water of the creek. With the current layout of the festival grounds, it is difficult for attendees to connect with the water and get to the water’s edge.

The creek that the site is named for is underutilized, Kik said. “You can’t go down to the creek because of the slope, so there’s not a safe way to kind of engage to the water,” she said.

“In the upcoming years we have talked about, what if we put a permanent building on Kalamazoo Avenue? That building could have restrooms and it could have indoor event space in it that could complement the festival site,” Kik said, though the plans have not been determined at this time.

“One kind of flaw in the stage is the structure of it doesn’t hold lighting or rigging, so you have to build around it and bring in your own (or rent it),” she said, which makes event costs increase substantially.

Kik said she will be looking to find grants to help fund the proposed changes and work toward improving the festival site and other aspects of downtown.

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