By Joshua Maloni
Plans are in place for the bandshell in Academy Park to move from the northwest corner of Center Street and Portage Road to the southwest end across from Syros Restaurant and Warren’s Village Hardware at Portage Road and Cayuga Street. The stage will face the field.
Mayor Anne Welch updated the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Board during Tuesday’s monthly meetings. She said Tops owner Anthony DiMino will finance this project, which is expected to happen before the end of the year to take advantage of the harder ground.
“When we looked at the master plan for Academy Park … we wanted to move the bandshell into a better location, so it services the whole park,” Welch said. “We came up with the idea to move it into that corner.”
HPC alternate board member David Giusiana of Giusiana Architects presented drawings for the bandshell, which will sit ground level – no more risers – and be expanded to accommodate greater backstage needs. The stage itself also is longer, and a new overhang is shown on Giusiana’s renderings.
DiMino originally paid for the bandshell, which was dedicated to his late father, Alphonso.
He was out of town and did not attend either meeting, nor did he respond to a request for comment before deadline.
“At his cost, he’s going to move the bandshell,” Welch said. “We’re hoping to get it done this fall, before it gets too bad (outside). Because in the spring we’d have to wait so long because the ground will be wet from spring. It’s probably better to do it now than to wait.”
“It’s going to be physically picked up and pulled across the park, and that’s not going to work well in the spring,” he said.
“This is at great expense to Anthony DiMino,” Welch said. “It’s going to cost him quite a bit to do that for us. We appreciate his willingness to do this.”
Most notably, the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston uses the bandshell each September during the Peach Festival weekend. Dance schools, musicians, competitive eaters and Peach Queen pageant contestants all have on-stage events during the four-day fundraiser.
“David made plans to extend the stage area, because Kiwanis always has to put up their own stage (extension),” Welch said. “This would enable them to just use what’s there – plus any other concerts … they’ll be able to use it. It’ll be there permanently.”
Giusiana said the stage will sit on the ground like a deck attached to a house.
In addition, he and Welch said the new location is better situated for external electrical connections.
HPC member Jim Fittante of Fittante Architecture also worked on the bandshell project.
His colleague, Rita Geiben, said, “I think it’s great. I think it looks very nice.”
Chairwoman Loretta Frankovitch said, “I think it looks great. I don’t have a problem with it. I think it looks very nice. We need to move it somewhere.”
Planning Board member Diana Lewandowski simply said, “Love it.”
Both boards voted in favor of the concept, which will seek final approval from the Village Board on Monday.
Renderings by Giusiana Architects, courtesy of the Village of Lewiston
What to do with Academy Park?
The Academy Park bleachers were demolished earlier this year, courtesy of Lewiston Event Center co-owner Harold Hibbard. They had been used in conjunction with the bandshell. Welch said no new seating would be created for the bandshell.
She said the village is hoping to add an open-air pavilion near the stage. Grant money also is pending for renovations to the bathroom facilities at the park’s northeast corner.
One year ago, the Academy Park committee met to discuss the site’s future. Welch has repeatedly said she wants the park utilized more than it is now, with just a few dozen dates taken for the Peach Festival, Artisan Farmers Market, Wine Festival and car cruises. She has expressed concern the Kiwanians’ carnival rides cause irreparable damage to the park, preventing the field from being used more often.
After much debate within the Red Brick Municipal Building last year, the Village Board approved the Kiwanis Club’s request to hold the 2020 Peach Festival at Academy Park. Of course, that event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kiwanians received permission to return in 2021 – without any fanfare, or discussion by trustees – at the Sept. 8 Village Board meeting.
The consensus among Academy Park committee members was that the Peach Festival and additional activities (picnics, perhaps an ice rink/splash pad) can coexist.
Fittante, who was working on the master plan, said at that time, “I think there’s a happy medium, that would benefit (everyone).”