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State senators hear about project to enhance park

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Members of the Minnesota Senate Bonding Committee met with representatives of New Ulm organizations in German Park regarding the amphitheater upgrades. New Ulm is seeking bonding money to help cover the costs of the $1.2 million improvements. Pictured, from left, Sen. Gary Dahms and Community And Seniors Together (CAST) Director Kathy Austinson.

NEW ULM — City officials and community stakeholders spoke to state senators on behalf of the German Park amphitheater project, Tuesday.

Members of the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Bonding Committee visited the German Park outdoor performing arts center amphitheater as part of a tour of possible bonding sites in southwestern Minnesota. The group was joined by local Sen. Gary Dahms and Rep. Paul Torkelson.

New Ulm has been trying to get $300,000 from the state through a bonding bill for several years, but this is the first visit from a state delegation.

Members of several New Ulm organizations spoke in support of the amphitheater project.

Mary Ellen Domeier of State Street Theater said New Ulm needed an outdoor theater space with safe seating for the audience.

City Councilor Larry Mack said the city had already shown strong support for finishing the amphitheater.

Bill Pekrul from Martin Luther College said the outdoor theater space would be a benefit for the 750 college students in town. He said with an upgrade the college could restart Shakespeare in the Park performances.

New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce President Michael Looft said the city is working to fill vacant storefronts in the downtown area and a viable park system could attract new businesses and companies seeking to relocate.

New Ulm Municipal Band Director Don Jirak said the band is looking forward to a future of performing in New Ulm. In the summer, the Municipal Band plays the amphitheater every week. He said if the amphitheater were improved the audiences could view the performances more easily.

Ann Makepeace from the Grand Center of Arts and Culture said with an updated amphitheater, the Grand could partner with German Park to hold expanded musical venues.

Community And Seniors Together (CAST) Director Kathy Austinson said she represented the 1,000 seniors who chose to retire in New Um who support the amphitheater. The seniors want to see the amphitheater improved to allow everyone access. An upgraded amphitheater would help keep seniors an active part of the community.

Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said the amphitheater project would cost a little over $1.2 million. The city has received approximately $815,000 for the project. An additional $300,000 from the state would bring the project within $150,000.

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