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Work is performed around the stage area at the new Nelson Park amphitheater in this October file photo.

DECATUR — Nelson Park's new lakeside music venue will be officially known as The Devon G. Buffett Amphitheater, the Decatur Park District announced Friday during an invitation-only event at the Beach House Restaurant. 

Devon Buffett is the wife of Decatur philanthropist and former Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett, whose foundation primarily funded the construction of the multi-million dollar amphitheater. Mike Wilcott, the amphitheater's manager, said Howard Buffett wanted to name the facility after her. 

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Amphitheater manager Mike Wilcott announces details about The Devon G. Buffett Amphitheater in Nelson Park during a presentation at the Beach House on Friday. 

Wilcott said the park district plans to colloquially call the amphitheater "The Devon Lakeshore Amphitheater," or more simply, "The Devon."

"We're hoping to make it grow as a brand," he said of the shortened name. "It's like Texas Roadhouse. No one calls it 'Texas Roadhouse.' They just call it 'Roadhouse.'

Wilcott, who is responsible for overseeing operations, talent management, sales and marketing for The Devon, said it is set to open for performances by Memorial Day weekend. Opening night will be Friday, May 24, he said, and the act scheduled to perform then will be announced at a later date. 

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Nicole Bateman, community marketing manager for the Economic Development Corp. of Decatur and Macon County, speaks about the benefits of amphitheater on Friday.

The Devon is a key aspect of the park district's long-term lakefront revitalization plan, which aims to transform the Nelson Park area into a recreational hub for the city. The amphitheater project has been in the works since 2014, after former Gov. Pat Quinn visited Decatur and announced the district would receive state funding for the outdoor venue. 

That funding was lost in January 2015 after park district officials said Quinn's office didn't approve the necessary paperwork before former Gov. Bruce Rauner took office late that month. Rauner suspended all state grants for park district projects a few months later. 

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Workers make progress on the Nelson Park amphitheater in this October file photo. 

Funding returned to the project when Buffett announced that his private foundation would cover the $3.9 million base cost to build the venue. The city and park district were to share the $358,000 cost of engineering and professional services. 

Buffett, who was named Macon County sheriff in September 2017 in the wake of former Sheriff Thomas Schneider's retirement, has been a frequent supporter of various Decatur-area projects and agencies in recent years. He served the rest of Schneider's term and did not run in the 2018 sheriff's race.

When we made the amphitheater a reality

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation donated $3.9 million to build a large amphitheater in Nelson Park, with construction scheduled for next year. Decatur Park District and city leaders created the vision for lakefront development more than five years ago, and they keep pushing it forward despite funding obstacles. That perseverance is beginning to pay off as Lakeshore Landing continues to take shape. 

In November 2017, the park board accepted a $3.9 million bid from Christy-Foltz Inc. to build the venue. Through its capital projects budget, the park district has funded about $1.2 million of additional work at the venue site. 

Wilcott said The Devon will have a presence on Facebook and Instagram, where patrons can learn more about scheduled acts and other happenings at the venue. A website for the amphitheater is also being developed, he said. 

This story will be updated. 

Here's some of what the Buffett Foundation has funded in Macon County

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Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR


Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Herald & Review.

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