By SCOTT JACKSON
City councillors on Monday unanimously approved a resolution opposing the demolition of the Ruth Gordon Amphitheater and urging the Department of Natural Resources to renovate the facility ahead of its 40th anniversary.
Ward 5 Councillor Charles Phelan Jr. and six of his colleagues – Anthony Andronico, James Devine, William Harris, Noel DiBona, Nina Liang and Anne Mahoney – introduced a resolution to that effect Monday night. All nine councillors voted to approve the resolution and refer it to the council’s oversight committee.
The amphitheater, located adjacent to Pageant Field in Merrymount Park, was dedicated in 1984 in honor of Gordon, a native of Quincy who had a successful career in Hollywood as an actress and screenwriter.
In March, a group of residents began to raise concerns about a proposal to demolish in the amphitheater, which had been discussed at a meeting of the city’s park board in November. Bid documents for ongoing work at Pageant Field also referenced the amphitheater before they were amended.
Phelan on Monday said Gordon is the most famous actor or actress to call Quincy home, having won an Academy Award, an Emmy, and a pair of Golden Globe awards.
“She was a great representative for the city of Quincy,” he said.
In recent weeks, a group of concerned citizens, including Sara Trainor Callard, the daughter of the late T. Owen Trainor, the architect behind the amphitheater, have come forward with plans to renovate the venue, Phelan noted. He said the city should work with that group to renovate the amphitheater.
“The purpose of this resolution is saying we’re opposed to any demolition of the amphitheater. We would also like them to look into these plans and put the Ruth Gordon Amphitheater where it belongs,” Phelan said.
“We have an event area out here (the Hancock-Adams Common), but it has to be set up for an event. The Ruth Gordon Amphitheater is already set up. The sound is perfect. Anyone who has ever played there says how great the acoustics are.”
“It’s basically a great part of the city,” Phelan added.
Mahoney said the amphitheater would have been demolished had it not been for the citizens group. Neither the mayor’s office nor the Department of Natural Resources had told councillors about the proposal, she said, even though the head of the department had appeared before the council in the fall to provide an update on a number of projects.
“There is a lot of stuff happening in the city of Quincy and I appreciate the work we do up here, but there is so much that is not being brought to us, so much that is being done behind closed doors, and so much that is in jeopardy that we don’t know about,” Mahoney said.
“I really appreciate the strong stance Councillor Phelan took on this and I appreciate the residents of the city of Quincy for recognizing the assets that we do have, because sometimes our leaders don’t recognize those assets.”
Chris Walker, Mayor Thomas Koch’s chief of staff, said the city does not plan to demolish the amphitheater – “based upon the reaction, it is done, it is dead, it is not happening,” Walker said – and would be willing to meet with the citizens group to discuss the venue’s future.
In addition, Walker said the proposal to demolish the amphitheater had not been discussed behind closed doors, because park board meetings are open to the public, and that the plan was not a done deal.
“No determination was ever made that we were ever going to go forward with it,” Walker said. “It was not a done deal.”
Walker’s comments were drowned out by several residents who accused him of being dishonest and demanded they be allowed to speak, prompting Council President Noel DiBona to briefly recess the meeting until the audience quieted down.
When the session resumed, Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain said the public would have a chance to speak during a future meeting.
“I appreciate the comments, I appreciate you being here, I appreciate you caring about this,” said Cain, who is the chairperson of the oversight committee. “This is an attempt that Councillor Phelan has made to bring this conversation more public. Once this is in a committee, we will have a hearing on it and we will discuss it.”