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Controversial amphitheater gone, rental fee to follow
JF Gregory amphitheater
This lone section of the amphitheater in J.F. Gregory Park where the electrical service is mounted is the only piece of the structure that will be left standing. - photo by Ted O'Neil

The amphitheater in J.F. Gregory Park is gone, and the portion of the city ordinance that sets the rental fee for it will also soon be gone.

The Richmond Hill City Council Tuesday night held a first reading of an amendment to the city’s ordinance that had set the rent of the amphitheater at a minimum of $150.

The amphitheater has been torn down and just one piece of the back wall will remain standing where the electrical service is mounted. The hill in front of the former structure will be smoothed out so that the stage used for the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival and other events can be positioned away from the pavilion, thus providing more room for attendees to spread out.

The council earlier this month approved spending $75,000 of SPLOST money for the work with the understanding that the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce would pay the city up front the rental fee of $15,000 a year for the next five years to use J.F. Gregory Park for the annual festival.

The amphitheater, which cost $600,000 to build in 2009, has seldom been used and was not adequate for the headlining acts at the GOSF. Assistant City Manager Scott Allison said city records show the structure was used nine times in the last three years.

The amphitheater was a point of contention when it was built — needing then-Mayor Richard Davis to break a 2-2 tie to approve the project — and the first event scheduled there was cancelled due to weather. It was announced in August 2009 that GOSF headliners that year Lou Gramm and John Waite would not use the amphitheater due to sound equipment and stage size requirements.

Shortly after taking office in January 2010, Mayor Harold Fowler said “I have yet to find anyone to tell me that it’s usable.”

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