2018 has been a milestone year for not one, but two, future permanent Levitt venues! In less than three months, Levitt Pavilion Dayton in Ohio will launch its inaugural season of free concerts at its new, state-of-the-art outdoor music venue in downtown’s Dave Have Plaza, reinvigorating this central public space and attracting Daytonians of all walks of life. And last month, Levitt Shell Sioux Falls broke ground on its own state-of-the-art outdoor music venue in the city’s underused Falls Park West, bringing it a giant leap forward toward its projected 2019 opening in South Dakota’s largest and most diverse city.
Rising steel in Dayton
Poised as the centerpiece of downtown Dayton’s revitalization, Levitt Pavilion Dayton is located in the heart of The Nine Redevelopment District—a nine-block, once challenged area that will soon become a vibrant gathering place for the entire city to come together and enjoy the best of Dayton’s cultural options. Since the Levitt project went public at the end of 2016, the city has witnessed increased investment in the area due to the anticipated surge in foot traffic once the Levitt Pavilion opens. As Mayor Nan Whaley explained, “Over the past several years, Dayton revitalization efforts have gained momentum, with the City and our partners working hard to reenergize and renew interest in the city’s offerings…the Levitt Pavilion will give citizens a reason to check out what is going on in the center of their community.”
Following a four-year, successful $5 million capital campaign and the support of many, a dream that began with a small passionate committee has become a community-driven effort about to come to life. In keeping with the hallmarks of the Levitt program, Levitt Dayton is community-driven to its core made possible by the efforts of the Friends of Levitt Dayton team—led by Executive Director Lisa Wagner—the Friends of Levitt board, volunteers, community partners, donors, sponsors and the City of Dayton.
The music venue’s thoughtful architecture, designed by Cleveland-based design firm Westlake Reed Leskosky, pays homage to the city’s rich history as a center for innovation and invention including the city’s pioneering role in aviation (home to the first airplane!), while maximizing the space’s natural light, surrounding landscape, acoustics and accessibility.
Last week, Levitt Dayton hosted a grand reveal party featuring live music and DJ sets at a downtown restaurant announcing the inaugural season lineup in the company of supporters, neighbors and community members. Throughout the evening, the excitement surrounding the soon-to-open venue was palpable. Before expressing his gratitude for Levitt Dayton’s many supporters, Board Chair Jeff Ireland reflected on why he was drawn to the project in the first place. “I became involved a few years ago because it was so fascinating to me to have free music bringing people of all ages, all genders, all nationalities, all ethnic groups together for the music…and at the same time contributing to the revitalization of downtown Dayton.”
With the growing team behind Levitt Dayton actively engaging future concertgoers, Executive Director Lisa Wagner is already beginning to experience “the magic of the lawn”—seeing people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds enter Levitt Dayton pre-season events as strangers and leave as neighbors. She marveled at how the excitement for the free concerts has brought people together even before the season begins. As Wagner explained, “It fuels my soul to do this kind of work where connection and community are the top priorities.”
Breaking ground in Sioux Falls
Over in South Dakota, last month Sioux Falls community members, Friends of Levitt Shell leadership, City dignitaries and Levitt Foundation Executive Director Sharon Yazowski gathered in Falls Park West to celebrate the groundbreaking of Levitt Shell Sioux Falls—which is set to open in 2019. Shovels hit the ground, marking the beginning of the physical transformation of this expansive public space into a vibrant, music-filled community hub at the entrance to the city’s iconic namesake, Falls Park. Friends of Levitt Shell Sioux Falls’ Board Chair, Jennifer Kirby, was delighted by the start of this exciting new chapter in the project’s life, “The groundbreaking for Levitt Sioux Falls was magnificent. Turnout for the groundbreaking was one of the largest ever! The event showed how much our community has already come together to make this a reality…It was a pivotal day in our project’s history.”
The groundbreaking adds an exciting dose of reality to the multi-year, $4.6 million project. Denver-based Sink Combs Dethlefs’ beautiful venue design celebrates the local landscape, paying homage to the way the Big Sioux River interacts with downtown Sioux Falls. At the groundbreaking, outgoing Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether reflected on the journey thus far, expressing his gratitude for the many individuals who chose to share their time and talents with the Levitt Sioux Falls project in “the spirit of making a difference in Sioux Falls.” He then went on to express his vision for Levitt Sioux Falls: “This truly is going to be a place for everybody—regardless of your race, your creed, your color, your income, where you live. It’s going to be the place to be in downtown Sioux Falls.”
The energy and excitement in the area surrounding Falls Park West is already gaining momentum. Kirby explained how new residents and businesses are being drawn into this formerly quiet part of town, and that this trend is only expected to grow. “As excited as we are about bringing Levitt to Sioux Falls, we know that its effect on downtown, our community and the surrounding area will be greater than we can imagine,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be part of one of the most exciting projects to happen in Sioux Falls in a long time.”
Bringing it to life
Bringing a permanent Levitt venue to life is a monumental community-wide effort years in the making. From the earliest stages of identifying a challenged public space, engaging the public and private sectors and building local support, to the development phase of selecting a venue design that reflects the local character of a community and leading the capital campaign, to launching the program and producing 50 free concerts every year—permanent Levitt venues require ongoing passion, dedication and a tremendous amount of local support. We’re thrilled to see two inspiring cities move closer to bringing the transformative power of free, live music into their communities. We celebrate their recent milestones and look forward to cheering them on from their very own Levitt lawns.