A new open air stage under construction downtown will soon be completed and available to showcase a variety of community entertainment events.
"It's coming along beautifully," said Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce. "We still need to get the cedar shakes on the roof. We've still got to get the electricity going and add safety railings and beautiful wide stone steps on the front but we're getting close. We hope to have a big celebration in the spring to let everybody see it and enjoy it. We're really looking forward to that," she said.
The open-air stage, located in Evins' Park begin the Smithville City Hall, is part of an effort by the Tennessee Downtowns Program Steering Committee to help revitalize downtown, Smithville.
In December, 2010, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Smithville was among 12 communities selected to participate in Tennessee Downtowns, a competitive community improvement program for cities and counties seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts. Smithville was among several Tennessee communities with central business districts at least 50 years old which were eligible to apply for a downtown revitalization package. Mini-grants were also made available to local downtown business owners who wanted to join in the effort.
A total of sixteen Smithville building owners were awarded $500 in mini-grants by the committee for investing a minimum of $1,000 in exterior improvements to their buildings.
"I applied for the Tennessee Downtowns Program and we got accepted into that," said Williams. "After we went through about a year of being trained and meeting all these different requirements, I was allowed to apply for a $15,000 grant which we got. We used $8,000 of it to do the mini-grants downtown. We had sixteen businesses or property owners that applied and if they made at least $1,000 improvements to the outside of their buildings we gave them $500 back. That went really good. With the $7,000 we had left, we invested in this open air stage which actually has become more beautiful than we imagined," said Williams.
While the project has benefitted from generous donations, Williams said more money will be needed to finish it. "Gaius Overton, who is married to Mary Evins (daughter of the late Congressman Joe L. Evins), is an architect so he made us two models and didn't charge us a thing for that. We picked the one we liked and we've been working on it ever since. The Smithville Rotary Club gave us an extra $1,000 and Middle Tennessee Natural Gas Project Hometown Help gave us another $1,500. I've still got to raise a little bit more money to finish it out," she said.
"It'll totally be available for public use. We look forward to having all kinds of art and music events and outdoor concerts once it's finished," said Williams.
Members of the Tennessee Downtowns Program Committee are Steve White, chair; Wade Smith, Alan Webb, and Mark Ashburn.