To celebrate 100 years of a commitment to service in the community in 2020, the Rotary Club of Salem has committed to the purchase and construction of a new and improved multi-purpose amphitheater at Salem’s Riverfront Park on the banks of the scenic Willamette River. The Rotary Club chose an amphitheater to mark the centennial celebration because it will be something for all of Salem to enjoy.

The Riverfront Amphitheater is a gift to the City. Each year Salem Rotary supports local nonprofit organizations with a variety of grants mainly focused on youth programs in the community. Over the years, the club has donated major gifts to the City of Salem, including the Rotary Pavilion, a large covered picnic and meeting area at the north end of Riverfront Park, and the children’s playground located next to the Carousel.

With almost 200 male and female members, called Rotarians, the largest and longest-standing Rotary Club in Salem is friendly and active in the community with multiple committees that provide diverse opportunities for community service. A Salem Area Chamber of Commerce member, it is a group of talented, professional and caring individuals who believe in contributing to the community.

Barry Nelson, CFP, a Past President of the Rotary Club of Salem, grew up in Salem. He is the program chair for the new amphitheater project and is committed to creating an incredible space for community performances and exciting events.

A former choir member at South Salem High School and current community vocalist, Barry is passionate about the opportunities for students with the new amphitheater, “We have incredible music and theater programs in Salem, and this amphitheater would allow for our award-winning high school music programs to perform for the community.”

The current amphitheater is inadequate and makes it difficult to host bigger events and concerts at Riverfront in the future. The larger and professionally-equipped venue will help attract events that will bring new visitors and customers to Salem’s streets, adding long-term stimulation to the local economy. The Salem Rotary expects the cost to be $1.5 million. The number is as low as it is because of the club’s close relationship with the City.

From the beginning, the City of Salem has been an enthusiastic partner with Salem Rotary on this project. The Rotary club will raise funds to pay for the 40 x 60-foot stage platform and a roof structure capable of handling the weight load of sound and light gear necessary to support high quality, professional music and theatrical performances.

The City will use its resources to prepare the construction site, upgrade current utilities, expand the seating area and ensure road and walking path access to the venue. The new venue will be designed to allow for performances and events, which will continue to boost Salem’s reputation and help boost the capital city’s appeal for people of all ages.

“The Rotary Club has participated in Salem Chamber presentations on millennials and how to keep that population in Salem,” said Barry. “Building the amphitheater is part of that process to make Salem a fun place to be.”

With Minto Island now accessible in new ways the city has never seen thanks to the new Peter Courtney footbridge, the area near the current amphitheater at the south end of Riverfront Park is quickly becoming the focus of increased visitor activity. For example, over 16,000 people crossed the new bridge by foot, bike or roller-blade in its first week.

The setting for the new amphitheater is perfect: located in Salem’s Riverfront Park, with stunning views of the Willamette River, directly across the street from Salem’s core downtown business area. It is envisioned to be a highly functional and aesthetically beautiful architectural design that invites people to enjoy a genuine sense of pride that the structure is an integral part of Salem.

“Instead of being known as some sleepy town, Salem is a cool place to be,” said Barry. “The Salem Rotary is passionate about maintaining economic and cultural vitality with the new amphitheater because it has the potential to be a regional destination.”

Get involved
A project this big requires the support of the entire community. Everyone can spread enthusiasm and contribute ideas by attending neighborhood association and other community meetings. Consider attending the Public Forum on July 25 at the Salem Public Library from 6:30 – 7pm.

Volunteer with the Salem Rotary to hand out informative pamphlets during events or brainstorm with the team to come up with fundraising ideas because ultimately, it is the generous financial support from many in the community that will ensure success and that the new amphitheater stage becomes a reality.

Check out the official website or the Facebook page here.

The centennial anniversary
The Rotary Club centennial amphitheater project will be presented to Salem City Counsel by the end of October 2017. Construction is estimated to begin in Fall 2019 to be sensitive to the event season. The goal is for the amphitheater to open in the spring of 2020 – just in time for the centennial celebration.

“Thinking of my own kids as they grow up,” Barry said. “I want to make Salem a place that we can all be proud of.”

For more information or to get involved, contact Barry Nelson with the Rotary Club of Salem at

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