magazine-category: Advancement

The Great Outdoors

Graphic representation of Brinkley amphitheater

Longtime Supporters, David and Marie Brinkley, Provide Lead Gift for New Amphitheater Complex

A family that has enthusiastically supported Gardner-Webb for more than a decade is making another transformational gift to the University. David and Marie Brinkley are providing the lead gift for a new amphitheater, part of an Outdoor Performance Complex, which will be built at 206 South Main Street, Boiling Springs. Gardner-Webb purchased the 1.78-acre property, site of the former Hardee’s, in January 2021.

With the couple’s multi-year pledge, GWU began work on the project. In honor of their commitment and past generosity, the amphitheater will be named “The Brinkley Amphitheater.”

“I am profoundly grateful to David and Marie Brinkley for their kind and continued investment in the people and programs of Gardner-Webb University,” shared GWU President Dr. William Downs. “They are truly special people, and they are helping us turn some ambitious dreams into action. The Brinkley Amphitheater will enliven not just our campus but also our broader community. It will be a showcase venue for the performing arts. It will bring new energy to our great college town, and it will serve as a catalyst for year-round entertainment and engagement. A big, big win for our campus and for all of us who love this area.”

The first phase of the project will be to construct a 600-seat amphitheater, stage and courtyard. This event space will be home to the performing arts, a summer concert series, future Webbstock events, and speakers. The attractive place will also be an area where students can gather, read or study. The second phase involves the construction of a Main Street-facing building that will house both a campus shop and a nationally recognized eatery.

graphic representation of new amphitheater complex
Artist rendering courtesy Holland & Hamrick Architects, P.A. Design is subject to change

The Brinkleys have two daughters, Kristie (’04) and Carrie (’06), who graduated from Gardner-Webb as student athletes. David, who serves on the GWU Board of Trustees, is a former high school football coach, and is retired from the Brinkley Financial Group investment firm.

When David saw Downs’ presentation on the proposed amphitheater, he went home and shared the details with Marie. As with all their decisions, they prayed about it and decided to join the effort. “We felt like this is a worthy project that will be used quite a bit at Gardner-Webb for a lot of different events and hopefully the community of Boiling Springs and all of Cleveland County,” Brinkley affirmed. “We felt like the amphitheater is going to be a good opportunity to bless a lot of people.”

Guided by their faith and a commitment to help improve the lives of children and young adults, the Brinkleys have supported academic programs; gave the lead gift for the Brinkley Softball Stadium in 2015; and most recently, provided the lead donation for the Marching Bulldog Band Uniforms.

Groundbreaking for the complex was scheduled for November 30th.

North Carolina Budget Allocates $500K for Gardner-Webb, Boiling Springs Partnership

Funds Requested by Cleveland County Leaders to Help Construction of Outdoor Performance Complex

North Carolina’s General Assembly drafted the state’s fiscal year 2023 budget (signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper on July 11), and it included a $500,000 allocation that will accelerate Gardner-Webb University’s collaboration with the Town of Boiling Springs. Initiated by a proposal from Cleveland County Manager Brian Epley and endorsed by the County Board of Commissioners, the funding will help support construction and operations at the University’s planned outdoor performance complex.

Citing an economic study requested by County Commissioners, County Manager Brian Epley noted that public investment into projects like the outdoor performance complex enhance population growth and increase the workforce pool. “Cleveland County Government continues to support the efforts of our municipal and outside partners,” Epley related. “The complex will offer many exciting opportunities and add significant value to our community.”

Under Gardner-Webb President William Downs, the University adopted a five-year Strategic Plan in 2020, which included a commitment to aggressively pursue grants from various external sources, including state and federal government. Since that time, Gardner-Webb has received numerous awards for academic enhancement and building improvements across campus. The new grant from the state of North Carolina will help Gardner-Webb’s aspirations to expand the performing and cultural arts, not just to benefit students but also for current and future residents from across the region. Gardner-Webb and the Town of Boiling Springs already succeeded in launching the inaugural WebbStock music festival in April 2022; with funding support from private donors and now the State, the two partners can grow opportunities for concerts, commercial activities, and dining.

“This is an outstanding example of forward-thinking public-private partnership, a true win-win for our campus and for our community,” praised Downs. “I am especially grateful to Cleveland County Manager Brian Epley and to all the members of the Board of Commissioners for spearheading the proposal that led to generous state funding. With the support of our elected representatives (Senator Ted Alexander, Representative Kelly Hastings, Speaker of the House Tim Moore), we will help bring new energy and new attractions to Boiling Springs. I look forward to working with Town Manager Justin Longino to ensure that Gardner-Webb University continues to build momentum as a catalyst for smart growth in this place we love to call our home.”

As the complex grows, Gardner-Webb University and the Town of Boiling Springs should see an increase in what both Downs and Epley deem “cultural capital,” raising the quality of community life and helping to attract families and businesses to the area.

Longino said the town lobbied for the project with legislators, and everyone on the staff is excited to begin the work with Gardner-Webb. “We are ecstatic that this vision is being brought to reality,” Longino affirmed. “It will be a focal point for the region and complement our transformative Downtown Master Plan and help bring even more changes to Boiling Springs. It’s another great partnership for all involved and a testament to how committed Gardner-Webb, Cleveland County, and the state of North Carolina are to our town.”

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