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Concerts and other forms of live entertainment may return someday to the Youghiogheny River waterfront after a long absence.
But first, the dilapidated pier and amphitheater in Gergely Park will need to be replaced. That work is expected to begin soon.
In June, McKeesport city council awarded a $173,200 contract to Lutterman Excavating of Westmoreland County to demolish and reconstruct the pier, which sits along Water Street near the Kane Regional Center at the end of Ninth Avenue. The pier, designed to accommodate fishing, and a neighboring amphitheater were constructed in the early 1980s.
The work is being planned by City Engineer James Garvin, said A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director, and funding is being provided through federal Community Development Block Grant money awarded in 2016.
With money from 2017 community development funding, Tedesco said, the city is hoping to reconstruct the amphitheater as well. Concerts were held along the riverfront in the '80s and '90s, including shows by the River City Brass Band, nationally known artists such as Buddy Morrow, and even events that were part of the former Mellon Jazz Festival.
But the pier in Gergely Park has fallen into disuse and disrepair and is in "deplorable condition," Mayor Michael Cherepko told council recently. Besides wear and tear, serious damage was inflicted two years ago by an ice jam on the Youghiogheny River, he said.
"We have since been able to put Band-Aids on it, but it’s becoming a real hazard," Cherepko said.
Part of the pier was actually underwater during the most recent flooding along the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, Tedesco said, "which may have been a good thing," he joked, because the city has been trying, with little success, to keep people from using the pier.
"When we looked at rebuilding the pier, the amphitheater sits adjacent to it, so if you're going to do one, you ought to do the other," Tedesco said.
The pier and amphitheater are within a short walk of the McKees Point Marina and the Palisades Ballroom, and are viewed by thousands of people every month who use the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail. But few events have been held on the pier and amphitheater since the old Mon-Yough Riverfront Entertainment Council was dissolved in 2007.
Tedesco said the mayor's office would like to change that.
"The idea is to create another feature for Gergely Park, and to just make a lot nicer down there," he said. "Since MYREC dissolved, we've kind of gotten away from using it, and we'd like to get things reorganized."
(Both photos special to Tube City Almanac)
Originally published August 21, 2017.