By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON – Tourists coming to Mingo County will soon have a new venue where they will be able to learn about the area’s history and enjoy everything outdoor drama has to offer.
The Mingo County Commission has partnered with the Matewan Town Council to construct an amphitheater in downtown Matewan. The commission teamed up with E.L. Robinson Engineering to prepare preliminary plans and a request for proposals has been issued to engineering firms so the next phase of design can begin.
Town officials have been working to procure funding for the project, which is estimated to cost between $215,000 and $435,000. So far, the United Mine Workers of America has committed to helping fund construction and the town has secured grant funding from the West Virginia Legislature and West Virginia Division of Culture and History. The town also plans to apply for funding through the Coal Heritage Highway Authority in the coming months.
The facility will be home to the Matewan Drama Group and its signature Matewan Massacre Re-enactment. The group plans to expand its list of productions once the amphitheater is complete.
“The people in Matewan have wanted to build this amphitheater for more than a decade,” said commission President Greg “Hootie” Smith. “The influx of tourism we are seeing due to the popularity of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud and the popularity of the Matewan Massacre production makes this the perfect time to help them make their dream of having an amphitheater a reality.”
The proposed site for the amphitheater is located on McCoy Street along the town’s floodwall.
“We have a real asset in the Matewan Drama Group and their Matewan Massacre Re-enactment,” said Commissioner John Mark Hubbard. “Showcasing them in this new amphitheater will bring our tourism potential to a whole new level.”
Commissioner Mike Carter agreed.
“We have been blessed with rich history in Mingo County and Matewan is the center of that,” Carter said. “We have a fantastic opportunity to capitalize on our history with the construction of this amphitheater.”
Plans for an amphitheater were originally designed with the floodwall, which was constructed in the early 1990s. The structure was never built, however, due to a lack of funds once the floodwall was completed.
Matewan Mayor Sheila Kessler and the town council are excited that the project is becoming a reality.
“The amphitheater project is something that Matewan has worked to accomplish for many years. It looks like it will soon become a reality due in part to the help received from Delegate Harry Keith White, the Mingo County Commission, the UMWA Local 1440, and West Virginia Coal Heritage,” Kessler said. “When constructed, Donna Paterino and the drama group will at long last have a permanent home. A big thank you to everyone that has played any part in helping. The amphitheater will not only benefit Matewan but all of Mingo County.”