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Rockin' the park

Mar 4, 2011
by Kara Pound, '06

Blevins helps turn St. Augustine Amphitheatre into one of the country’s top outdoor venues

When Troy Blevins took a job with St. Johns County Recreation and Parks, he never thought it would lead to hobnobbing with big time celebrities like Ringo Starr, Aretha Franklin and Toby Keith. Blevins, ‘89, just wanted to help the county by creating youth sports programs.

“I figured I’d be in the gym and be ‘Coach Troy’ for the rest of my life,” the 43-year-old admits. “I didn’t think I’d be the guy in charge of 43 miles of beaches, 4,500 acres of parks and all of the boat ramps. And I definitely didn’t think I’d be running a concert venue.”

A few years ago, Blevins was named Director of St. Johns County Recreation and Parks, putting him in charge of nine departments including the Cultural Events Division, which oversees the St. Augustine Amphitheatre — one of the top outdoor venues in the country.

But it wasn’t always celebs and accolades. Blevins spent years getting to that point. He got his start at Flagler College. Born and bred an hour south in DeLand, he came to the Oldest City in 1987 to play baseball for the Saints and pursue a degree in recreation management.

Just before graduation, a man named Leon Shimer came to speak in one of his classes. He was so impressed by the senior that he asked him to interview for a county position. “I gave him my resume and I pretty much had the job that day,” Blevins remembers. “I started working with the county just a few weeks after graduation.”

Over the past three decades, Blevins has worn numerous hats. He’s hosted national softball tournaments, created successful after-school and summer programs, constructed parks and coached thousands of kids throughout St. Johns County.

He was named director in 2006, just a few months before the county started looking at how to manage the newly revamped outdoor amphitheatre. “When they decided to keep it in-house,” Blevins said, “no one else had really done any major events.”

Blevins’ experience with national softball tournaments and other sporting events helped prepare him for the new gig. But hosting big name musical acts and cultural events quickly proved itself a horse of a different color. So the county hired General Manager Ryan Dettra, himself a 2000 alumnus, and nearly a half-dozen other Flagler alumni to run the 4,100-seat venue.

In October of 2007, Little Richard was the first big show promoted by the amphitheatre staff. People were excited, but apprehensive that the venue would have a shelf life. Blevins and crew didn’t disappoint.

Over the past three years, they’ve brought legends like James Taylor and the Steve Miller Band, indie acts like The Decemberists and My Morning Jacket, and family-friendly events like the Golden Dragon Acrobats, the Saturday Farmers Market and Winter Wonderland — complete with an ice skating rink and nightly snow.

The amphitheatre has surpassed every expectation. It’s consistently ranked in the top five for best outdoor venue by Pollstar Magazine with more than 70,000 tickets sold and a total industry impact of $8.1 million. Blevins and his crew are working to make it No. 1.

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