Tri-State residents are embracing the spring sun and searching for outdoor entertainment. While Evansville offers plenty of venues for live events, none accommodates an outside crowd.
The city’s existing options are limited. The concrete amphitheater on Downtown’s riverfront esplanade could host casual shows, but it lacks a stage and frequently floods. Apart from passersby stopping to take in the view, the location is largely unused.
Mesker Amphitheatre was a popular West Side entertainment venue for decades, but since closing in 2012, the 8,000-seat amphitheater has deteriorated from lack of use. Community efforts have tried to raise support for the amphitheater’s rehabilitation, but sentiment only goes so far.
In its place are regional venues such as the year-old Allen Family Amphitheater in Newburgh, Indiana, and larger facilities in Lincoln City, Indiana, and Beaver Dam, Kentucky. WFIE-TV reported in 2015 that the Beaver Dam Amphitheater’s first season brought more than 12,000 visitors to a town of 3,500 people and resulted in the city’s 3 percent restaurant and hotel tax alone raking in a record $44,000.
Renovating Mesker Amphitheater may get costly: Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer estimated in May 2021 that the project would need at least $8 million to complete. Building an open-air venue in Roberts Park is an option, but no plans have gained traction there. In the meantime, Evansville is left with dilapidated venues and a gap in its entertainment options — a gap that other regional cities can use to their advantage.
Photo by The Eric Group/Courtesy of Beaver Dam Tourism Commission