Steve Irby has been in Stillwater since 1948 and donates $ 3.5 million to the Town of Stillwater for the creation and construction of a new park and amphitheater.
For Irby, the new space not only adds to revitalization efforts in parts of the city, but also for daily events and activities while showcasing music.
“I think the thing that would give me the most satisfaction would be seeing people enjoying it,” said Irby.
For years, the space known as Block 34 remained heavily covered with grass and sometimes used as a venue for city activities and events. Now it should be the site of the park and the amphitheater.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Irby, the president and founder of Stillwater Designs / KICKER, a speaker production company, was approached by the Stillwater Community Center Foundation to help fund the amphitheater.
Then the pandemic struck and the project was halted, but during that time Irby’s business grew, giving him an opportunity.
“Later, after those two years of COVID, business was actually pretty good,” Irby said. “So I got the idea to come back with him on this and give him a donation to do it all instead of just the amphitheater.”
Irby was involved in the commissioning of OSU architect and alumnus Dan Ankarak and landscape architect and alumnus Stanton Espinoza. Three concepts of what the lot would be transformed into were created, but one spoke to Irby.
“Concept number 2, which is the one we showed, is the one that I think immediately said to us all, ‘That’s it. “You know?” That’s the one, ”Irby said.
There are concert halls in Stillwater like the McKnight Center, but Norman McNickle, Stillwater City Manager, said this project is different because it will be open to the public all day with no rental or reservation fees.
“It’s been a long journey, even before I came in as GM there was a lot of talk about what to do with this vacant lot,” McNickle said.
This donation moved the project forward and took years of head scratching, public hearings and countless meetings on how best to use the land for rest.
While the bulk of Irby’s donation will go towards construction, the donation will also fund the foundation to develop and host 14 musical evenings and other programs for 10 years.
McNickle felt a sense of relief when he heard that Stillwater Designs / KICKER was going to fund the project.
“It was breathtaking,” McNickle said.
The city has other initiatives to improve the city, such as updating and relocating the fire station, improving roads and an animal shelter without killing. McNickle said the projects are aimed at retaining young people in the city.
“We want to make Stillwater an attractive place for everyone, but especially for young people who have talent and can be put to work here,” McNickle said.
After official approval, construction of the block could begin as early as next summer and will take about a year.