Overhauled Stage Means The Show Will Always Go On In Remodeled Old Town Square
For more than seven months, the heart of Fort Collins’ downtown has been mostly roped off and covered in construction dust. When crews wraps up, one of the most noticeable changes to Old Town Square will include an expanded and relocated outdoor stage.
“It’s going to be a great experience for performers, but it’s also going to deliver a whole new experience for audiences,” said Matthew Robenalt, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, the group leading the $3 million renovation project.
“There was a lot of intentional design that went into that stage,” Robenalt said.
Slightly larger, with a more open feel, the new stage was designed to give artists more room as well as audiences a clearer sight line. The space around the stage also has a more open feel with unobstructed views from as far back as Mountain Avenue, Robenalt said. The relocation of the public bathrooms from the plaza to Trimble Court also added a little more breathing room, whether you’re there for a show or just passing by.
“If you think about previous experiences when the concerts would be going on, the way that the stage was located right in the center of the plaza - because of the crowds that they would draw - we often had situations where a lot of the passageways for pedestrians through the plaza would get very clogged,” Robenalt said. “By relocating the stage to the far north end, we created a central plaza area where concert audiences can gather, and we'll keep other passageways open.”
The biggest changes though are behind the scenes.
About 40-to-50 percent of the renovation was done underground, including relocating major utilities, such as water mains, and gas and phone lines. The stage features an internal wiring system to make putting on shows easier.
“We created an infrastructure for (performers) to be able to come and basically plug in and play,” Robenalt said. “It’s a stage that offers all of the basic things that you would find if you were to show up at a concert venue.”
The stage gets a lot of use almost year-round, whether for the Tiny Tot Halloween Parade or a parade of local musicians as one stop for the annual three-day, Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest musical extravaganza.
Other big changes to the square include the addition of an outdoor fireplace and a larger children's play area complete with a pop-jet water feature, similar to the one in the neighboring Oak Street Plaza.
But not everything is new.
“The plaza has some elements that the community considered pretty sacred,” Robenalt said. The square’s mature honey locust trees and original rock fountain were retained.
“When it was built in the ‘80s, the community definitely wore it out and outgrew it,” he said. “So taking that time last year to figure out how to lay it out better, hopefully we’ve extended the viability of basically our town square for another 40 years or so.”
A renovation celebration on Oct. 23, 2015 will feature live music and dance performances.