Pankowski Friends Amphitheater Project



Pankowski Friends Amphitheater

The Pankowski Friends Amphitheater, a stone and timber gathering space, was the first capital fundraising campaign for the Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve. Construction was completed in September 2019. The amphitheater is the main venue for Candlelight Hike Festival performances, family nature programs, and special events sponsored by Schmeeckle. It is also available for private and community rentals.

Why an Amphitheater?

Since 2005, the biannual Candlelight Hike Festivals at Schmeeckle have grown from about 300 participants to nearly 4,000 in 2018. As a result, the small campfire ring where UWSP students performed character programs was no longer adequate. As their first capital campaign, the Friends group decided to raise funding for a professionally designed amphitheater that would blend into the landscape, serve as a focal point, and provide a better audience experience. It would also create opportunities for new campus and community partnerships.

Amphitheater Design and Construction

The amphitheater is designed with sandstone seating for 200-250 people, a timber-frame stage with lighting and sound, and native landscaping to blend with the natural environment. The Rettler Corporation in Stevens Point developed the site concept design, seating and landscaping plans, and coordinated the construction. Alliiance architects in Minneapolis developed designs for the unique stage area with a flared roof. Ellis Construction served as the primary contractor to build the amphitheater.

Stage design by Alliiance

Timeline and Cost

Fundraising for the amphiteater started in December of 2016, when Dallas and Edith Pankowski offered a $65,000 gift to kickstart the fundraising campaign. The Rettler Corporation was hired by the Friends group in May 2017 to develop the site concept and coordinate the project planning. By July 2018, enough funding had been raised to bid out the project. Ellis Construction won the bid and was hired as the general contractor in August. A Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on September 7, 2018. The project took almost exactly a year to construct. The Grand Opening Celebration was held September 13, 2019. The total cost of the amphitheater project was $275,000.

The amphitheater was funded entirely by generous donations through the Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve, which gifted the amphitheater to the university. No state dollars were used for the project.

Project Donors

A special thank you to the nearly 100 donors who made this project a reality! Click here to view a list of donors.

Renting the Amphitheater

The amphitheater is available to rent for private and community events. Click here for more information.