As of late May, the race was still on to determine whether the new outdoor amphitheater at Ernie Miller Park will be completed in time for the first few Friday Night Amphitheater Programs in early June. The programs will take place inside the Ernie Miller Nature Center if necessary, but once it opens, the new amphitheater will replace the original facility first opened in 1987 and will offer increased capacity, improved accessibility, and some new features.
“The new amphitheater greatly improves accessibility for people with different mobility levels,” said Outdoor Education Manager Bill McGowan. “The old amphitheater only had an accessible route to the back of the theater. The new amphitheater will have accessible route to both the front and back of the amphitheater. The new amphitheater also has wheelchair space on the front and back rows. The new stage also has a ramp that allows an accessible route. Lighting has been improved with enhanced stage lights and lit handrails for the steps. The new facility also features a middle row which will allow presenters to interact more with participants. The capacity of the amphitheater has been increased from 125 to 160 people. The new facility also features an improved fire ring with a seat wall.”
The amphitheater replacement is part of a number of improvements at Ernie Miller Park which began in 2020 and are being completed over two years. Other improvements include: the replacement of a pedestrian bridge over the South Trail, which was completed in 2020; installation of a new accessible parking area and drop off loop near the nature center, to be completed by the end of July; rebuilding a number of paved trails near the nature center to increase accessibility, which was recently completed; and construction of an outdoor discovery area consisting of a 20’ by 20’ deck on the pond near the amphitheater for nature programming, to be completed by July 1.
This year’s family-friendly nature-related Ernie Miller Park Amphitheater Programs begin June 4 and continue weekly through July 30. These educational and entertaining programs are presented by park naturalists and park police officers, last about 45 minutes, and are designed for all ages.
This summer’s presentations include: Eyes of the Night
on June 4 (this program has filled and a waitlist is available); Voices in the Wild - Nature Writers of Note
on June 11; Stories in the Park
on June 18; Bats
on June 25; Wildlife Webs
on July 9; The Good, the Bad, and the Smelly
on July 16; Snakes Alive
on July 23; and Down by the Pond
on July 30.
McGowan noted Voices in the Wild is a new program, and the Bats presentation was brought back by popular demand.
Amphitheater programs begin at 7 p.m. During inclement weather or excessive heat, programs will be held in the nature center. A charge of $3.50 per person paid on-site helps cover the cost of the programs, and children two and under are free. While walk-ins have been encouraged in the past for amphitheater programs, pre-registration will be required this year. It is also highly recommended that participants who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 wear a face mask.
Ernie Miller Park
is located at 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway in Olathe. Visitors can park in either the main parking lot near the nature center, or in the small parking lot south of the park entrance. From either lot, there is a paved and lighted path to the amphitheater, although the lot nearer to the nature center is recommended for those with accessibility needs. For more information on amphitheater programs, call (913) 826-2800.