The Gerry Frank Amphitheater project in Salem, Oregon was recently recognized at the 2022 Oregon DJC TopProject Awards. A GeoEngineers team led by Julio Vela (Salem) and John Lawes (Portland) provided geotechnical services for this new marquee attraction in the city’s Riverfront Park.
In 2017, the Rotary Club of Salem, Oregon announced a plan to build the new open-air amphitheater at Riverfront Park. The $4 million project would deliver a premiere venue for outdoor community events, complete with a vendor plaza, elevated stage and pavilion shell. GeoEngineers provided geotechnical services for the project as sub-consultant to project lead CB Two Architects.
A GeoEngineers team had worked on earlier park improvements including the Salem Carrousel, Willamette Queen dock, west edge of the old amphitheater and a landmark pedestrian bridge. This previous subsurface experience at Riverfront Park proved valuable. GeoEngineers knew that a building had once stood on part of the proposed amphitheater site, and that demolition rubble and other material was likely still below the surface. The team’s geotechnical investigation confirmed that demolished or partially demolished debris and even complete utility tunnels were scattered throughout the site beneath several feet of silty fill.
Although in most cases concrete debris would be removed prior to construction, the upper soil at the amphitheater site was partially subject to residual environmental contamination from site use decades before. To avoid this potential complication and keep costs manageable, GeoEngineers recommended foundation designs that would bear on underlying dense native gravel—and require much less excavation.
GeoEngineers overcame the challenges of this complex site with widespread subsurface construction debris, finding efficient and effective foundation design and ground improvement options for the project by working closely with the City of Salem, the Rotary Club, and the site contractor. The successfully completed Gerry Frank Amphitheater will be a community hub and premiere Riverfront Park attraction for many years to come.