Smith Mountain Lake took one step closer last week to getting a sizeable venue for concerts and other public events when the Bedford County Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of rezoning land off Hendricks Store Road for the 7,000-seat Sweetwater Amphitheater.The rezoning changes a 56-acre parcel from low-density residential to commercial.
The commissioners’ nod moves the project forward to the Bedford County Board of Supervisors for their okay. Traditionally, the Supervisors put their stamp of approval on developments that have received such a favorable reception from the Planning Commission. District 4 Commissioner Steve Wilkerson made the motion to approve the rezoning.
Apparently, the Lake community is rallying for a place close by to enjoy concerts, plays and other live performances, rather than drive far afield for entertainment. Early last month, the proposal by Darrin Snyder and his wife, Holly Sweet, met with enthusiasm at a neighborhood meeting on the project at Moneta Elementary School. About 50 people attended that meeting, and no one objected to the proposal.
Although the couple currently resides in Nashville, Snyder and Sweet plan to move back to the Lake area as soon as Bedford’s Supervisors give the amphitheater their okay. Snyder and Sweet will oversee the facility’s daily operations. Both are natives of the Lake area.
The couple wants it to attract attention from people visiting Smith Mountain Lake, which is only about five miles from the proposed amphitheater site. They also have said they will target nationally known music artists.
The amphitheater could host a variety of events. Live concerts are an obvious choice, and would include a variety of music, including classic and contemporary country, classic, southern and other types of rock, jazz, pop, classical, Gospel and contemporary Christian. The facility’s major concert events during the primary season will be augmented by annual festivals showcasing local and regional talent. Other events might include theatrical tours similar to that of Wolf Trap in northern Virginia, musical revues, comedy and children’s theater. Additional possibilities include exhibitions like the Roanoke Valley MDA car show, boat shows, or the annual Gem and Mineral Show, carnivals and fairs, movie nights, church revivals and other community events.
David S. Anderson, a managing partner for the Timmons Group in Richmond, which is designing the amphitheater, said the project’s goals are to provide quality entertainment and an economic shot in the arm for the entire lake region.
Proposed plans provide a permanent stage and under-roof area designed to seat 2,500 ticket holders, in addition to traditional style lawn seating for 4,500 persons. The amphitheater’s primary operating season will be April through October, with plans for an opening season of April, 2008.
Snyder and Sweet noted that traffic flow and noise levels generated by the facility are foremost concerns. With this in mind, they plan to design turning lanes and parking areas so traffic may be directed off main roads quickly and safely; they also plan to incorporate appropriate audio equipment in the amptheater’s production. Audio speakers with line array and wave guide technology have been proven to not only control noise pollution, but provide a clear, rich sound without excessive volume levels. The amphitheater’s technology will minimize the amount of music that escapes from the natural bowl in which it will be built.
Tim Saunders, one of those who spoke at last week’s meeting on the project, said one of the reasons he initially moved away from Bedford County was a lack of entertainment options. Now that he has returned, he said he’d like to see more live music concerts.
"There is a really huge void here for concerts," he noted. "This is going to fill part of that void."
Article by Rebecca Jackson of the Smith Mountain Eagle