LES O’DELL The Southern Aug 16, 2022 Updated Oct 12, 2022
A popular spot for concerts in Carbondale is getting an upgrade thanks to a $2 million grant from the State of Illinois.
Governor J.B. Pritzker announced last week that Carbondale, along with 49 other communities, will be receiving money from the Rebuild Illinois Downtowns and Main Streets capital program and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. In all, $106 million in grants were awarded.
Carbondale will use the funds for the development of an entertainment and events plaza along Washington Street between Main and Walnut Streets. The location has been used for a variety of musical events in recent months including the current “Off the Rails” concert series.
The venue will feature a permanent stage as well as improvements to the area and the parking lot at the north end of the grounds.
“This is something that the city has talked about for several years,” explained Carbondale City Councilman Lee Fronabarger. “It’s going to save the city and any other concert promoter from having to lease a stage to be brought in on a truck. It will be a time saver and an expense saver.”
Carbondale Economic Development Coordinator Cody Lueker said the grant will provide 80% of the funding for plaza plans which include the stage, an accessible festival terrace and improvements to the parking area.
He said the city must wait for the official printed notice of the award before final design and construction can begin on the venue, and he expects the project to take about 20 months to complete. He added that the city applied for the grant to help undo the economic harm brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The whole purpose was to try to get more people downtown visiting our businesses, to bring more people to Carbondale and to improve the quality of life for our residents,” Lueker said.
Performers are excited about the new venue as well.
“I think it’s amazing. I like that Washington Street area and I’m glad they are bringing this in,” said Andrew Staff, guitarist and vocalist of Swamp Tigers, a popular Southern Illinois band. “A bunch of us musicians have said they just needed something permanent there. This will be a great investment, because I think it will get more use.”
Staff added that the new venue should boost Carbondale’s music scene.
“We’ve never really had an infrastructure before. There’s been lots of people who have put together festivals and they’ve been scattered because you are always looking for a location. This will open up lots of opportunities,” he said.