New Nelson Park Amenity to Enhance Tourism and the Arts

DECATUR, IL – Thanks to a $3.9 million gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, a new amphitheatre at Lakeshore Landing in Nelson Park will soon be constructed in partnership with the Decatur Park District and City of Decatur. For over 35 years, enhancement of the Nelson Park basin of Lake Decatur has been identified as a community priority. In 2012, a comprehensive, multi-phase plan entitled “Lakeshore Landing: A Community Vision” was unveiled. Family-friendly amenities such as a dog park, disc golf course, boat docks, promenade, and Overlook Adventure Mini Golf Course have been completed. The Nelson Park amphitheatre is the next major development – and truly the linchpin of Lakeshore Landing.

The gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation represents an increased commitment to the project and to the Decatur community. In 2014, former Governor Pat Quinn announced a $2 million grant for the amphitheatre project from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which was then matched by a $1.5 million donation from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. When State grants were frozen, however, the project came to a halt until the Foundation agreed to replace the State funding with the increased donation.

“We always believed this project would be a tremendous resource and a worthwhile investment for the Decatur community,” said Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. “We were disappointed when the state’s funding fell through, so we entered into discussions to cover the remaining project costs. With the leadership of the Decatur Park District and City of Decatur, we were able to make this a truly local effort.”

Located south of pavilion #1 with a spectacular view of Lake Decatur, the amphitheatre will be a state-of-the-art cultural arts and recreation venue, featuring concerts, arts performances, road races, festivals and other special events. The facility will draw visitors from across Central Illinois and accommodate 300 guests in the fixed seating area adjacent to the stage and an additional 3,000 spectators on the terraced lawn. Included will be a stage with specialized lighting and acoustics, concession building with restrooms, and changing room for performers.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, we are continuing to build upon our recent successes, both as part of the Lakeshore Landing development and throughout the community,” said Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe. “I’m perhaps most excited about the fact that our residents will be able to experience this state-of-the-art facility right here in Decatur and that it will draw people from across the region, who will get to see the jewel that is Nelson Park.”

“The Nelson Park amphitheatre will be a great addition to the park system,” said Park Board president Bob Brilley, II. “We have been waiting for a number of years, and thanks to the generosity of Mr. Buffett, our vision is becoming a reality.”

Construction is slated for April 2017, with an expected completion date of December 2017.

The completed amphitheatre, made possible by this public/private partnership, will be a unique asset to the Lakeshore Landing development, enhancing tourism and the arts, helping attract and retain a high-quality workforce, and improving the quality of life for all in the greater Decatur community.