Nestled among the trees of Jekyll Island, south of the golf club and tennis center, along the west side of a pond, sits the Jekyll Amphitheater.
As the rest of the island’s undergone a kind of renaissance, it’s continued to go unused, but that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten or that it’s not among the Jekyll Island Authority’s priorities.
During a work session last week, JIA Executive Director Jones Hooks told the board of directors that getting the amphitheater going again is still a goal, but it has to be done the right way at the right time, with private sector involvement.
“It’s the old amphitheater that’s defunct, now, and we went forward with a structural engineering study, which is just looking at what’s there — to see if it was sound,” Hooks said. “And the bleachers are sound. They’re made out of concrete, so they’re not going anywhere. But the staging, finally with one of the hurricanes, it was all damaged and it was going to need to be moved anyway…,” so staff went in and dismantled it.
Hooks said that, however, the amphitheater is in good shape to be put back in working order. He said there’s some interest among the island hoteliers in reopening the site as an event venue, and now Jekyll is hitting the number of hotel rooms where JIA feels comfortable that there would be enough should the amphitheater — which seats a little more than 2,000 people — reopen.
“But, I don’t personally think that we need to — one of the things that you told me when you hired me was don’t get into any business the private sector can do better…,” Hooks said. “So, we’re trying to do that, and I don’t think we want to become a promoter. Because, I think that when you start trying to promote acts — and we don’t know anything about that — that is a dangerous, slippery slope for us.
“I think we would want to marry up with a promotion company that would have access to acts that would be the right size for our amphitheater, which is a small amphitheater compared to St. Augustine or somewhere. And they may have access to those acts that are going up and down (I-)95 and like to pull off and do a one-night show on Jekyll Island, that sort of thing.”
While the amphitheater looks derelict now, it was still the home of concerts and movie screenings a little more than a decade ago. There was a long-running summer musical program conducted by Valdosta State, but that ended in 2005 in a decision laid at the feet of state budget cuts. When VSU pulled out, the JIA pivoted to opening up the venue to other organizations.
In an 2005 story in The News, Heather Heath, executive director of the Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association, said it was a great spot.
“Outdoor venues tend to lend themselves to a more casual setting,” Heath said. “We’re a laid-back community, and I think they might like that. Plus, it really is just beautiful out there.”