Why a downtown amphitheater?

If we could wave a magic wand and turn all the downtown office space into residential, many of downtown's problems may be solved. The problem? The City does not have ownership or site control over these buildings.

Question is, what can we do as a city now, that we have control over, to kick start downtown revitalization? Something that would rebrand downtown and give people a new reason to visit. A world class downtown amphitheater and a "toes in the water" river edge access park would do just that.

For struggling downtown Portland it would provide a new "value proposition" to live or work downtown. A city owned amphitheater would have a 30-35 year pay back then become a revenue source. Imagine ongoing outdoor concerts every year on the banks of the Willamette River with views of the Hawthorne Bridge, Mt. Hood and our city's second largest public space and natural area the Willamette River. If you have been to Waterfront Blues Fest or the Oregon Symphony in the park you already know how special this space is for concerts. This re-imagined section of Tom McCall Waterfront Park will become a terrific new leg of livability for Portland and kick start Portland's imagination for the next genesis of downtown.

If this sounds like something you'd be in tune with, join our email list (on our home page) or follow us on social media (Instagram or Facebook) to stay in the loop. Read our Manifesto below to learn more about what will guide our team. Read further to think about how many seats the amphitheater should have.

Share this page with a friend. Let's see if we can drum up enough support to move ahead and give Portland a boost in civic pride with a new music venue and "toes in the river" water edge park on the Willamette River.

We hope to present three possible ways this park could be developed to get the communities creative juices flowing. Stay tuned, we are curious what you will like and not like with all three. Ideally, we are hoping our work will provide support to nudge Portland Parks and Recreation to initiate public planning for this section of Tom McCall Waterfront Park. You will then be able to participate as much as you want to help shape this park's future.

Many thanks to Travel Oregon for providing seed funding to support this initial planning process.

What will the amphitheater look like?

First we must consider size. Size matters. (click on image to zoom)

What will the river edge park look like?

Here are some ideas.....One thing is certain, it will offer people with all mobility levels with toes in the water access to our river.

Willamette Bowl Manifesto

Our vision is to create a world-class river edge park and amphitheater in downtown Portland.

Human Access Project (HAP) has been working for 14 years on our mission of Transforming Portland’s Relationship with the Willamette River. We have spearheaded the opening of two public beaches, worked with the city to name six safer swimming areas, converted the Kevin Duckworth Dock to a swimming dock and removed over 350 tons of concrete and rubble from future beach spaces. We have brought over 25,000 people to The Big Float, a majority of whom got in the Willamette River for the first time and very much enjoyed their river.

We feel the public is ready for a conversation around revitalizing the Tom McCall Bowl from an underutilized "goose sanctuary" to a world-class amphitheater and “toes in the water” river park. The objective is to create an iconic Portland park that is both a transcendent event space and well-designed green space that leverages its proximity to the river - Portland’s blue space.

The key element that gives this park the potential to be world class is its proximity to the Willamette River. The objective of the amphitheater is to create a wonderful event space that has a sense of place, intimacy and public appeal. The objective of the toes in the river green space is to create a welcoming invitation for people to experience the joys of the river both physically and visually and provide easy access. This is also an opportunity to improve shallow water and upland habitat in the riparian area.

From a downtown revitalization perspective this multi-use park would enhance living or working downtown and draw people to the area. Unlike most of downtown, the city can control the future of this valuable piece of real estate that is now currently grossly underutilized by people and mostly utilized by geese. 

The team HAP has assembled for this mission is comprised of artists, community leaders, entrepreneurs and industry experts and is diverse by gender, ethnicity and professional background. We view this as a civic project to add value to our city. It would become a significant cultural asset for Portland. This group will spearhead a conversation around this space and drive the conversation forward. We anticipate that the outcome delivered by our team will not supersede a public planning process but will help inform and drive one to start.

Beyond planning and advocating, HAP envisions that we may play a fundraising role in transforming this vision from seed to fruit.

This will not happen overnight and it may not happen at all. It could also take 5-10 years. Our team is committed to elevating this idea and seeing how far we can take it - hopefully all the way to fruition. Portland’s defining features are our river, our bridges, our views of Mt. Hood, and our immense treed Forest Park. An inspired amphitheater on the edge of the Willamette could become a new Portland icon. A place where people gather to enjoy the river and live music in a world-class outdoor venue. It’s a venture and vision worth striving for.

Willamette Bowl Team

The Willamette Bowl Team is diverse by gender, ethnicity, and professional background. It's a Portland all-star team committed to bringing a permanent world-class waterfront amphitheater and water edge park to Portland.

  1. Scott Bricker, Travel Oregon, Destination Development Manager
  2. Jim Brunberg, Revolution Hall / Mississippi Studios, Owner
  3. Mike Faha, Greenworks, Principal
  4. Tyler Fuller, Waterfront Blues Fest, Co-Owner
  5. Christina Fuller, Waterfront Blues Fest, Co-Owner
  6. Susie Giang, Ground Control (national booking agent)
  7. Erin Graham, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) CEO
  8. Chris Herring, Portland Winter Light Festival, Founder / Creative Director
  9. Steve Kerin, Musician, Keyboardest Extraordinaire
  10. Bobby Lee, Office of Mayor Ted Wheeler, Chief of Staff
  11. Willie Levenson, HAP Ringleader
  12. Mike Lindberg, Former City Commissioner
  13. Paul Lumley, Cascades Aids Project,  Executive Director
  14. Jeff Mason, Production Consultant
  15. Sonia Montalbano, McKean Smith, Attorney
  16. Art Pearce, Portland Burreau of Transportation, Policy, Planning & Projects Director
  17. Jerry "JP" Peterson, Jack London Talent Booker, Alberta Alley, Board President
  18. Tessa Peterson, RiverPlace  Hotel, General Manager
  19. Lisa Zangerle, Sera Architects, Principal
  20. Ness Zolan, Prosper Portland, Events Navigator
  21. Adam Zucker, Zucker Engineering, President

Greenworks Project Managers: Matt Piccone, Celia Hensey

Sera Stage Designer: Travis Dang