$3 million RiversEdge construction to start this year

Investment designed to improve, enclose Hamilton concert venue that mayor calls a ‘priceless’ asset.

Later this year, work will begin on what will eventually be a $3 million makeover for Hamilton’s RiversEdge.

Hamilton City Council approved borrowing $1.7 million to upgrade the canopy and for concrete work at the 13-year-old concert venue at Marcum Park.

The work in this first of a two-phase project also includes a fence to surround the amphitheater.

The new roof, associated concrete work and fence now are projected to cost $2 million.

The construction work is set to start in October. Hamilton Director of Resident Services Adam Helms said, while “we’re $300,000 short on the roof and the fence, we think we have a plan for that.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The second phase for the concert venue includes adding a concessions area, as well as a box office, restrooms and a VIP area. This second phase will help solve the issue of not being able to have a permanent liquor license. Phase 2, which currently has no funding allocated for it, is expected to cost $1 million.

“We are in the process of writing grants and requests at the state for capital budget funding,” said Helms, who said city officials have met with Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, and Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester. “So, we’re trying to push this through at the state level.”

RiversEdge has gone a long way to help add to the city’s quality of life, which Hamilton City Council continues to acknowledge.

Council member Michael Ryan said, “Every year is better than the previous year,” and Council member Joel Lauer said he “can’t say enough” about Helms and his crew in their operating RiversEdge.

“I have a great deal of respect for you and your staff, and I will continue to work on the ground with you,” he said.

Mayor Pat Moeller said RiversEdge is a “priceless” asset for Hamilton.

“You really can’t put a dollar figure on RiversEdge,” he said. “Destination, smiles, it’s incredible. Just a positive, economic development magnet.”

Though the benefits of the venue may be beyond cost for some on City Council, the city does invest around $500,000 a year in RiversEdge.

With that investment, it attracted more than 30,000 attendees at the 25 shows in 2023, and RiversEdge matched the city’s investment with $150,000 in private sponsorships and generated an estimated annual economic impact of $1.1 million.

Helms said while the amphitheater is a concert venue, Phases 1 and 2 will help transform RiversEdge into something more, Helms said.

“We do live concerts, but what we’re constructing is the infrastructure for a performance space,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be live music all the time. If we have that big of a roof, we have a great venue already; the programming dollars will allow us to expand our programming (for teens and young adults, and other things).”

Since 2017, RiversEdge has hosted 121 events drawing in 175,000 people, and generated an estimated economic impact of $6.25 million. And the reach of the concert venue is international, Helms said.

Helms said they have had attendees at RiversEdge from every state in the country and several other countries.

Though RiversEdge is known for its free concerts, the future will likely include bigger names and bigger acts, something outlined in Plan Hamilton and in feedback from concertgoers. But that will mean not all concerts will be free, Helms said.

“I’d love to do those shows for free, but they’re not financially feasible to do those for free,” he said. “If we do those, we’ll have to have some paid admission shows. We continue to plan to do the free shows.”

Helms added admission doesn’t have to be market rate as he and his staff do fundraise to help offset costs.

RiversEdge by the numbers:

$2 million, the amount the first phase of work will cost;

175,000, the number of people in attendance there since 2017;

$6.25 million, the economic impact generated in six years.

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