Bay City’s newest outdoor venue on track for completion this summer

The framework is in place and in a few short weeks, construction on the World Friendship Shell in Downtown Bay City should be done.

The project started in January when the original stage, built in 1981, was razed. The new outdoor amphitheater is the final piece of the waterfront project in Bay City’s Wenonah Park.

Construction on the World Friendship Shell in Downtown Bay City’s Wenonah Park is nearing completion.“It’s really going to finish off that half of the park,” said Mike Bacigalupo, Downtown Management Board chairman and chief operations officer of the State Theatre.

The 6.1-acre Wenonah Park has been a part of Bay City’s riverfront landscape since 1907. Today, the park on the east side of the Saginaw River features the iconic Friendship Ring, a boardwalk, and boat slips. In May 2018, the Nickless Family Community Pavilion opened.

Upgrades to the World Friendship Shell are the latest improvements to Wenonah Park.Though the new amphitheater will be finished in time for the summer concert season, there are no planned events right now. Under state guidelines for outdoor events, Bacigalupo said the summer concert series was put on hold. Any outdoor entertainment, including the concerts on Bay City’s waterfront, are scuttled until Phase Six of the governor’s plan to re-open the state.

Just after the city announced the cancellation of the 2020 Bay City Fireworks Festival, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced plans to begin Phase Four in mid- and southern Lower Michigan. Phase Four eased some restrictions on businesses, but does not permit large group gatherings such as concerts. Bay City’s popular summer concert series, which was set to begin this month,is on hold indefinitely.

The project started in January when the original stage, built in 1981, was razed.“We’re waiting to see what she’s going to do,” said Bacigalupo. He added local organizers are hoping to salvage at least some of the events planned for this summer. “It’s unfortunate, but there’s not a lot I can do.”

Despite a few weeks of delay because of COVID-19, the project is scheduled to be finished by the end of June. Bacigalupo said there will be just a few finishing touches made in July. When the old shell was taken down in January, plans were to build an entertainment structure fit to bring national acts into Bay City.

The new band shell will include a larger stage and lights.

The new band shell, expected to cost $1.5 million, is funded through grants and private donors, Bacigalupo said, but would not disclose specifics. “There is no tax money involved,” he said.

Visitors to Wenonah Park can expect not only a new look to the band shell, but lights and a larger stage. The old stage was taken down after it was found to be crumbling. Bacigalupo said the new stage should be poured within the next week or so and is larger than the previous stage.

The 6.1-acre Wenonah Park has been a part of Bay City’s riverfront landscape since 1907. The park also includes the Friendship Ring, a boardwalk, boat slips, and the Nickless Family Community Pavilion.The new shell is the latest addition to the downtown waterfront. Last winter, Bacigalupo was instrumental in finding some of Bay City’s iconic Christmas lights and getting them up and working around town. Bacigalupo said he is planning more for the 2020 holiday season.

“I’ve also got another surprise coming this Christmas,” he said.

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