By Chris Macias, Sacramento Bee

Quinn Quarry was once a prime spot to excavate granite and a beloved swimming hole for generations of Rocklin residents. But now, Rocklin city leaders hope the land surrounding the quarry will create a city center and generate some rock-solid economic activity.

A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled Saturday to commemorate the opening of Quarry Park and christen its 1,500-capacity amphitheater. The dedication reflects the completion of Quarry Park’s first phase of development, which is expected to last up to five years and is geared to revitalize Rocklin.

Once completed, the multiphase project may encompass up to 22 acres of development in the space surrounding Quinn Quarry and the adjacent Big Gun Quarry, which were both fixtures of Rocklin’s granite-mining industry. The goal is to transform the former quarry spaces into a hub of new businesses and draw foot traffic in a city of 60,000 residents that otherwise lacks a downtown area.

“We’re trying to capitalize on things that are unique to Rocklin,” said Karen Garner, director of Recreation, Arts and Events Tourism for the city. “Nobody else has quarries like this in their downtown. We can’t wait to show off (Quarry Park) and really believe the community will love and embrace it.”

The first phase of Quarry Park’s development focuses on performing arts and developing the park’s infrastructure. The $3 million project, which included a $310,000 grant and money from Rocklin city funds, includes a four-tier amphitheater plus the installation of a granite walking trail, extensive landscaping and other site improvements.

The first concert set for the amphitheater, headlined by the English singer-songwriter James Bay on Wednesday, has already sold out. The concert is presented by Entercom radio, which will lease the amphitheater from the city.

City staff members will book the majority of the amphitheater’s shows, including a Concerts at Quarry Park series, which debuts April 29 with country-rock from the Marshall Tucker Band. The city-run concerts will take place through mid-September and include a country music festival on July 23. Molly Ringwald, the actress/singer and Roseville native, will close the series on Sept. 17. The amphitheater will also serve as the stage for performances of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on June 10-11.

While food trucks and other concessions will be available in a space adjacent to the amphitheater, the city’s staff hopes that nearby businesses will receive a boost from the events. The space will also operate as a public park when there are no events.

“We’re hoping to be a destination not just for residents, but folks from outside the area,” Garner said. “Hopefully they’ll drop a few dollars here before they go back to where they live.”

Some nearby business owners are also hopeful that Quarry Park will bring extra foot traffic in a town that’s traditionally lacked a centralized gathering spot. Rocklin once had a downtown area around Front Street, which included saloons, a hotel and other businesses which catered to miners and quarry workers. But a number of major fires, including one in May 1914, decimated many of the businesses that were never rebuilt.

Much of Rocklin’s business activity has since shifted to a few main areas, including Rocklin Road and Pacific Street, yet the city lacks a centralized shopping district like downtown Auburn or Roseville. Barbara Velasco, owner of the antique store Hand Pickin Emporium, remains cautiously optimistic that her business’ close proximity to Quarry Park will draw more customers.

“Rocklin has gone through so many phases,” Velasco said. “They’re trying to make this a centralized area and I’m all for it if it happens. My biggest worry is parking and that customers can get in. It’s exciting that something is coming, but I wonder what it will be like.”

Some additional business may come to Quarry Park. Future phases of the site’s development include enhancing the park’s picnic area and parking lot, and perhaps converting an adjacent fire station into an artisanal food pavilion.

The adjacent Big Gun Quarry site, owned by the city and for sale, is also being envisioned for development. City officials hope the former quarry will be operated by a business that offers zip lining, rock climbing and other outdoor activities. Design proposals for the second phase of the project, which will focus on expanding the site’s parking options, are expected to be submitted when the fiscal year begins July 1.

City officials have heard from residents who are excited about the development of Quarry Park, but expressed concerns about noise and traffic, especially when concerts are held. Some homeowners live just a few hundred yards away from the park, and decibel readings will be monitored at the amphitheater’s initial concerts so noise levels can be fine-tuned for future events.

“I’m hoping it stays family friendly,” Velasco said. “Of course, I want my business to get busy, but I also live in Rocklin and want to make sure the right people come and stay. My fingers are crossed, but I think it will be positive.”