COMMUNITY : River Walk Amphitheater

River Walk Amphitheater

Janesville’s Downtown: The Power of Ten

Janesville’s Downtown: The Power of Ten

For many decades the notion of redeveloping the riverfront through downtown Janesville has been the focus of several planning efforts. While considerable progress has been made and the City of Janesville has spent in excess of $8.4 million on riverfront projects in the past ten years, much work remains to be done.

A new redevelopment and implementation strategy is nearing completion and it lays out a 10 year plan to create 10 new features in downtown along the riverfront or within one block of the river. Forward Janesville has pledged to provide private sector leadership to engage both private investors and public leaders in getting the job done this time around. The first project is an improvement to the lower courthouse park including an attractive arched shelter that will be a focal point in the center of downtown for small gatherings and celebrations. Thanks to generous gifts from the family of Marv Roth, support from the Janesville Foundation, and funds from the City’s park improvement fund, this project is expected to be completed by October of 2014.

A much more ambitious project is the focus of this brochure: the Janesville Riverfront Amphitheater. The Amphitheater will be constructed in the riverfront park between the Janesville Performing Arts Center and the Hedberg Library. The City of Janesville will own the facility and the Janesville Performing Arts Center staff will operate the Amphitheater. The stage and a multi-use building adjacent to the stage will typically accommodate 500 to 1,500 attendees for a variety of events including musical performances, festivals, reunions, community outdoor movie nights, and theatre performances. But the facility is scaled to also accommodate ticketed performances with as many as 4,200 attendees.

Most events will cater to a local audience and the emphasis will be on family-friendly events. The plan projects 60 events per five month season. It is anticipated that 6-8 events will be larger, ticketed events that will draw concert goers from a regional base. The economic impact of the project will easily exceed a million dollars per year in additional visitor spending in the community. Just as important will be the impact the Amphitheater can have on our ability to retain and attract young adults who are critically important to the future of our local businesses. A vibrant, diverse cultural and entertainment scene is often cited as a key element in retaining and attracting young adults.

The Janesville Riverfront Amphitheater will be an iconic symbol of Janesville’s riverfront renaissance, a facility citizens will be proud to show to visitors and a place where the community will want to gather weekly to enjoy the riverfront from May through September. A successful launch of this ambitious project will build momentum to continue implementing the 10-year vision of improvements from Traxler Park to the Monterrey Dam.

The time is right to start implementing the 10-year, 10-project riverfront redevelopment plan and the Janesville Riverfront Amphitheater is the catalytic project that will build the needed community support for a transformation of Downtown Janesville into the jewel of Rock County and Southern Wisconsin.


Prepared as sculptural architecture, this reflects on the constant but varied waves of the Rock River. A moving flow of lines as the patrons move in and around the structures change from various viewing locations. Portions of the wave are covered, while others float freely in the air and cast ribbons of shadows that are changing with the sun.

Entrance to the park is aligned off center of the existing pedestrian path forcing patrons to follow the lines and shadows of the building to determine their entrance location. A play of solids and voids in the screen wall concept bring a playfulness and encloses the amphitheater in random visuals through the wall.

The simple but elegant sweep of the canopy over the stage continues the rolling nature of the structures while providing necessary shade for the performers.

Total Estimated Cost:$4,770,000

 Stage Design

In designing the main performance area for the Janesville Riverfront Amphitheater, creating the stage portion of the facility had to support a variety of performances from one person acts, small bands or choral groups to a full symphony orchestra. The idea of providing portable stage extensions that would provide additional flexibility was incorporated into the design. While the permanent stage area of approximately 74 feet wide by 34 feet deep will support almost all performances, the extensions would increase the depth to 42 feet.

Back Stage

Back stage was prepared to provide required space for receiving equipment, setup, performers, storage for chairs and equipment for daily operations of the facility. Overhead doors separate the stage from back stage to secure storage and access to lighting and sound equipment and controls while providing a generous area for performers and equipment to move between stage and back stage. Secured storage areas are provided for easy access to sound and lighting equipment and a yard storage room (at spectator level) for storage of chairs to be used on the patterned concrete spectator area immediately in front of the stage.

Spectator Areas

While the projected capacity of the amphitheater is just over 4,200 guests, several styles of seating areas are provided. A patterned concrete area immediately in front of the stage is anticipated to seat approximately 840 when set-up with auditorium seating in radius of rows.

Two event sponsor raised seating areas are being proposed. The upper deck area over the concessions, rest room and ticket building will provide seating with tables and chairs for 98 guests and the elevated seating area south of the concessions building will provide seating at tables and chairs for 140, and may include a bar and service areas for food.

Grass area seating on the ground or in lawn chairs may provide additional seating for almost 3,200 guests.

Event Support Services

For larger events, expanding the grounds into a portion of the parking lot to provide food, beverage and merchandise sales as well as additional space for portable toilet facilities and first aid tent is planned. The balance of the parking is anticipated to be reserved for handicapped patrons and reserved event sponsor parking.



Concessions, Rest Rooms, Tickets

Essential to providing a great experience at each event, support facilities are provided to enhance the experience. A permanent facility is being proposed that will provide needed facilities for events up to 1,250 patrons with rest rooms, concessions and ticket sales. For larger events additional toilet facilities and concessions will be provided (see below).

Event Sponsor Seating

Event sponsors will be provided with roof deck and raised seating areas reserved for their guests. These areas will include table and chair seating, food service, and convenient bar service. The upper deck over the concessions, rest room and ticket building will provide seating for up to 98 guests and the lower raised seating area, stage right, will provide table and chair seating, food service, and convenient bar service for 140 guests.

Larger Events

Large events will be provided with additional support facilities that will be located in a portion of the Janesville Performing Arts parking lot adjacent the amphitheater.

Space shall be provided for local vendors to provide food and beverage sales as well as merchandise sales areas for performers. Events planning with patron expectations over 1,250, additional toilet facilities will also be provided in the services area. Other services such as first aid station and sanitation will also provided as necessary for an event.

Convenient parking facilities with shuttle services will be managed to provide guests with easy parking and access to the event and reducing the traffic impact to the neighborhood.

The image below illustrates a potential arrangement of support facilities including vendor tents, first aid and port-a-potty village.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the proposal?  

The proposal is to establish an open-air, outdoor performing arts venue in downtown Janesville with a permanent stage and support facilities, as well as a structured concession and restroom area.

Where is the proposed performance venue located?

As proposed, the venue would be in Library Park, located between the Hedberg Public Library and the Janesville Performing Arts Center on South Main Street in Janesville.

Who is the owner of the property? 

All of the property proposed for the venue is owned by the City of Janesville.

Are there any restrictions on the property?

As a condition of the City’s acquisition of the property from the School District of Janesville, the property must remain as public space and may only be enhanced for public use. All of the proposed structural enhancements are outside of the 100-year floodplain.

Where did this idea come from?

In 2007, Janesville’s residents, Plan Commission, and city council adopted a downtown plan that called for the development of a park with an outdoor performance space in this location. The current proposal is an implementation action and direct extension of that publicly adopted vision and plan. Developing this venue will serve as one of the first in a series of downtown improvements envisioned over the next several years.

How will construction of this facility be paid for?

The broad range of community stakeholders that are preparing for this proposal intend to undertake a significant fundraising effort for the construction of this facility, and will seek out any applicable grant funding to help facilitate the project.

Who will manage the operation of the venue?

As proposed, the Janesville Performing Arts Center will oversee the operation of the venue for major events, and will coordinate efforts to manage and book smaller community events with the City. A Plan of Operations for the facility has been prepared for different types of events.

How many attendees will the venue draw?

The venue is intended to host events that draw anywhere from 50 to about 4,200 attendees. The objective is to establish a flexible, frequently used space for community gatherings of all sizes. The main focus will be for community-based events that draw a maximum of 1,000 attendees up to three nights per week in season. In addition to these smaller events, the intention is to host up to 8 larger events (drawing up to 4,200) on select weekends between June and September.

Where will attendees park?  

As a major component of the plan of operation for the venue parking management will be addressed, and currently there is intention to partner with a local institution for off-site parking from which a parking shuttle will bring attendees to the venue. In addition, events will be staffed to include individuals to monitor Library Parking Lots so that venue attendees are not utilizing parking that is intended for library patrons. Not counting the parking spaces at the Hedberg Public Library OR residential street parking east of Main Street, there are 250 public parking stalls within 1,000 feet of the site and more than 450 within a five-minute walk. Within a 10-minute walk of the venue, there are over 1,800 public parking spaces – note that this does not include the over-river parking deck, the Hedberg Lots, or residential on-street parking east of Main Street.

How will this space be programmed and managed to minimize disruption to visitors and staff at the Hedberg Public Library?

Scheduling of major events with over 1,000 ticketed attendees will be focused to coincide with hours that the Library is closed for business – which is to say Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings after 5 p.m. This will mitigate two of the primary concerns that have been raised with respect to this proposal: conflicts with parking and concerns about noise disrupting quiet enjoyment of the library.

What other steps have to be taken with this proposal?

While the overall concept and objective of this proposal is defined, much still needs to be done. Raising the financial resources needed to complete the project is just getting started. In addition, at least one neighborhood meeting at which surrounding property owners and residents - as well as the general public – will be conducted before any formal approvals are undertaken. Once this information is gathered and a fundraising strategy is outlined, the proposal would go through a public approval process with various public bodies including the plan commission and city council.