Canal Fulton eyeing business boom with amphitheater and concerts

FULTON CANAL — Officials hope a new downtown amphitheater will draw more people to the city and boost downtown businesses.

City Council recently approved a $49,900 contract with B&K Concrete Construction to build a concrete stage at St. Helena Heritage Park.

Work should begin as soon as the snow and wet weather subsides, Mayor Joe Schultz said.

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They hope to complete the stage by June 16 when the city’s new concert series kicks off at 8 p.m. with Out of Eden.

On June 19, the town will host a car show and a Father’s Day concert. Six additional concerts are planned throughout the summer as well as several cruises.

“Our goal continues to be to bring people downtown,” the mayor said. “Vendors told me they want butts in the seats. We want to get people through the doors and then it’s up to them (the business owners). We’re trying to do everything we can to help our businesses.”

New Canal Fulton Amphitheater aims to bring more people to downtown

Discussions about the amphitheater began with former city manager Bill Rouse, Schultz said. Rouse has since resumed his role as chief financial officer.

At the time, they were following the Mayfield Village plan to build in phases.

“You start by finding a blank canvas,” Schultz said. “It turned out to be the downtown park.”

The amphitheater will sit between the Skywalk and Canalway Center on one of the park’s two ball diamonds, he said.

Fields are not used, Schultz added. Soccer leagues will be able to continue to use the space for games.

“It wasn’t the best place for ballparks with pedestrians walking down the towpath, they could get hit with a ball,” Schultz said. “With the installation of Northwest Baseball, there is no shortage of ball diamonds (in the city).

The amphitheater will be close to the park’s parking lot, pavilion and playground.

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The location was questioned by some who thought a better location would be the Schalmo Family YMCA’s new park and walking path. But Schultz said that location wouldn’t help downtown businesses.

“We try to focus on economic development,” he added.

Also, unlike the YMCA site, water and sewer lines are already available at St. Helena Park.

The mayor has heard concerns about flooding at St. Helena Park. After the last two weeks of rain, the park is under water again.

Schultz said he has followed the floods since becoming mayor. The park experiences up to five floods each year, he said.

To account for the water, the stage will be constructed with concrete and steel, he said.

Although it is in the floodplain, the amphitheater site is the highest point in the park at about 945 feet above sea level, he added.

More things are planned for Canal Fulton Heritage Park

The step is just the start of the effort, the mayor said.

In the next phase, a steel roof will be built over the stage and the final phase includes the addition of public restrooms and a stage area for performers.

The city is working with Minerva area architect Milt Studer to develop plans.

“We are really lucky to have him,” added the mayor. “He really helped us move the project forward.”

Supply chain issues and rising material costs could hamper future phases, Schultz said, adding that they are seeking private funding and donations.

The city applied for grants from ArtsinStark and the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition. Schultz estimates the price tag to complete the final two phases could be around $185,000.

The project will have additional benefits for those using the towpath, Schultz added.

There are no public restrooms along the trail. If the Canalway Center is open, trail users can access restrooms, but hours are limited.

Summer concerts, scheduled car shows

The city worked with TNT Marketing to plan a series of summer concerts and car shows.

Dave Thomas, owner of TNT and, a custom t-shirt company in town, has teamed up with local musician Chris Wintrip to bring the musical series to life.

“He was instrumental in working with me to put this together,” Thomas said of Wintrip. “He was instrumental in booking some of the groups.”

Wintrip’s band Evolution will perform an Eric Clapton tribute concert on June 19. A Father’s Day car show is scheduled from 3-7 p.m. with the concert at 4 p.m.

Similar events in nearby towns have been very successful, Thomas said, attracting not just residents but others to the area and injecting revenue into local businesses.

“I’ve met people who do these events all over Stark County and these concerts have been phenomenal for their city,” he added.

The city council is working to expand the designated outdoor refreshment area to include St. Helena Heritage Park, Schultz said.

“We will not be selling alcohol (at concerts),” the mayor said. “We will encourage people to head to the Barrel Room, Miller-Doan (Taverne), Dragonfly (Winery) or Canal Boat Lounge to buy a drink and bring it and enjoy the concert.”

The designated outdoor refreshment area allows liquor patrons to consume liquor outdoors after purchasing a special cup.

The concerts will be funded through sponsorships, Schultz said, adding that he had several ideas for ways to get more funding, such as raffles.

Schultz visited amphitheaters throughout the region like Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia and Bluebird Farm Park in Carrollton.

In New Philadelphia, they sell a program for each concert that included corporate advertising. Each program was numbered, and that number allowed those who purchased the book to enter a raffle for small door prizes, he said.

“We can look around and see what other people are doing. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Schultz said. “We have to look at what works for others.”

Schultz and Thomas believe the concert series and other events are a win for the city, residents and businesses.

A few concerts last year in the park were well received, Schultz said.

“People had picnic tables to eat and kids were running around and laying on the playground, while you sat there listening to music.”

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On Twitter: @aknappINDE

Fulton Canal Concert Series and Cruises

Canal Fulton will host concerts this summer as well as car shows. The concerts start at 6 p.m. with the first part. The main act takes the stage from 8-10 p.m. at St. Helena Heritage Park, 123 Tuscarawas St. NW.

Concerts include:

  • June 16 – Out of Eden
  • June 19 – Evolution
  • July 15 – New Wave Nation
  • July 29 – Blues Festival
  • August 5 – King’s Highway
  • August 19 – Fleetwood Gold
  • September 2 – Hard Day’s Night
  • September 16 – In the blue

A Father’s Day Car Show Cruise featuring classic cars and motorcycles will take place from 3-7 p.m. on June 19. Other cruises will take place from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on May 27, June 10 and 24, July 23, August 12, and September 26, 9, 23 and October 7.

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