LE­VITT PAV­IL­ION’S FIRST SEA­SON SEEN AS SUC­CESS

Or­ga­niz­ers, busi­nesses note pos­i­tive im­pact from new mu­sic venue.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Cor­nelius Fro­lik Staff Writer

The first sea­son of down­town’s new out­door mu­sic pav­il­ion came to a close Sun­day, but some peo­ple haven’t stopped singing the venue’s praises.

The Le­vitt Pav­il­ion Day­ton’s free con­certs brought more than 25,000 peo­ple down­town, ac­ti­vat­ing what was a sel­dom-used park in the heart of the city.

Parts of down­town felt more alive on Le­vitt con­cert nights, and some con­cert-go­ers be­fore and af­ter the shows hit up nearby busi­nesses, in­clud­ing bars and restau­rants.

“I ab­so­lutely think the Le­vitt is bring­ing more peo­ple down­town, and folks seemed to be stop­ping in a lit­tle bit be­fore shows, and def­i­nitely af­ter­ward,” said Emily Men­den­hall, owner of Lily’s Bistro at 329 E. Fifth St. in the Ore­gon Dis­trict.

Some busi­ness own­ers say the pav­il­ion was a big hit and pre­dict even larger crowds next sea­son.

The roughly $5 mil­lion mu­sic pav­il­ion at Dave Hall Plaza hosted its in­au­gu­ral con­cert Aug. 9.

The state-of-the-art am­phithe­ater put on shows nearly ev­ery Thurs­day, Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day through the be­gin­ning of this month. Dave Hall Plaza is along South Main Street, be­tween Fourth and Fifth streets.

Sev­eral shows at­tracted mon­ster crowds. The largest au­di­ence ex­ceeded 3,000 peo­ple, who gath­ered to see the Day­ton Funk All-Stars Band.

The small­est crowd was around 70, but that show was re­lo­cated to the top of the Crowne Plaza be­cause of the rains from Hur­ri­cane Gor­don, sup­port­ers said.

“(For) the first year and an ab­bre­vi­ated sea­son, we ex­ceeded our goals in terms of at­ten­dance, in­clu­sion and com­mu­nity build­ing,” said Jeff Ire­land, board chair of the Friends of Le­vitt Pav­il­ion Day­ton. “The na­tional Le­vitt Foun­da­tion con­tin­ues to be thrilled by our suc­cess.”

The Le­vitt, which is part of a na­tional net­work of free-con­cert venues, pro­vided a cou­ple mil­lion

con­tin­ued from B1 dol­lars worth of mu­sic pro­gram­ming across 33 shows, all while not charg­ing vis­i­tors a penny, of­fi­cials said. The venue will host at least 50 free shows each year in fu­ture sea­sons.

The Le­vitt shows suc­ceeded in break­ing down bar­ri­ers to bring peo­ple to­gether, coun­ter­ing the per­cep­tion that down­town Day­ton should be avoided at night, Ire­land said.

The au­di­ences were about as di­verse as the types of mu­sic gen­res and per­form­ers who took the stage.

“If there was any doubt, we have es­tab­lished that free mu­sic brings peo­ple to­gether in a pos­i­tive way,” Ire­land said. “Con­sis­tent, free, high-qual­ity mu­sic is an equal­izer and the space we cre­ated was very wel­com­ing.”

Many con­nec­tions were made this sea­son on and off the pav­il­ion’s lawn, which is the main part of Le­vitt’s mis­sion, said Lisa Wag­ner, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Le­vitt Pav­il­ion Day­ton.

“The com­mu­nity read­ily em­braced the Le­vitt and it showed in the com­mu­nity build­ing and at­ten­dance,” she said.

The as­pi­ra­tion is for the Le­vitt to be down­town’s liv­ing room — a cen­ter­piece of a new ur­ban neigh­bor­hood in the cen­ter of the city.

The Le­vitt, along with the planned re­open­ing of the Day­ton Ar­cade, is at the cen­ter of a re­vi­tal­iza­tion strat­egy for a nine-block sec­tion of down­town that seeks to re­use and fill up many empty and un­der­uti­lized of­fice build­ings.

New hous­ing is be­ing tar­geted for a large va­cant build­ing, just north of the pav­il­ion.

A Colum­bus ar­chi­tec­ture firm that pur­chased a nearby prop­erty on West Fifth Street owner of the Cen­tury Bar that it hopes to re­de­velop cred­ited the Le­vitt for breath­ing new life into the area. The hope is that the Le­vitt will be a cat­a­lyst that sup­ports ex­ist­ing busi­nesses and lures new ones.

“Our sales were cer­tainly up in Au­gust and Septem­ber,” said Diane Spitzig, owner of the Cen­tury Bar, half a block from the am­phithe­ater. “Although they’ve been up all year, I do think the Le­vitt has helped.”

Some of the Le­vitt bands stopped in the Cen­tury af­ter the con­certs for drinks.

Third Perk Cof­fee­house & Wine Bar, at 56 W. Fifth St., cap­i­tal­ized on the Le­vitt’s open­ing by sell­ing snack packs of­fer­ing wraps, wine, desserts and other op­tions.

Juanita Darden, Third Perk’s owner, says she be­lieves buzz about the venue is spread­ing and there will be big­ger crowds.

“I was very im­pressed how the com­mu­nity re­ally em­braced the space,” she said.

The snack pack sales weren’t as good as Darden had hoped. She usu­ally sold about five to 10 snack packs per con­cert, well short of her goal of 40 per show.

But she said one con­tribut­ing fac­tor was that most con­cert-go­ers did not park near her shop, lo­cated on the west of Main Street. Most seemed to park at the Trans­porta­tion Cen­ter Garage and ar­eas near the Ore­gon Dis­trict.

She’s hope­ful that more at­ten­dees will swing by Third Perk for snack packs or af­ter-con­cert treats.

Af­ter some Le­vitt shows, a steady stream of con­cert-go­ers flocked to the Ore­gon Dis­trict, look­ing for drinks, grub and more en­ter­tain­ment.

Cor­ner Kitchen, 613 E. Fifth St. in the Ore­gon Dis­trict, saw larger crowds at around 9 to 9:30 p.m., when the shows con­cluded, said Natalie Skil­liter, gen­eral man­ager and co-owner of the restau­rant.

“I truly wasn’t ex­pect­ing to see much of an im­pact on my busi­ness from the Le­vitt’s open­ing but am pleased to say that I have in­deed seen an uptick,” said Skil­liter, who is also the pres­i­dent of the Ore­gon Dis­trict Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion.

Skil­liter says she ex­pects to see a lot more col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Le­vitt and Ore­gon Dis­trict busi­nesses in the sec­ond sea­son. She said there’s al­ready been dis­cus­sions about part­ner­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The Le­vitt’s big­gest im­pact on Lily’s Bistro, at the western edge of the Ore­gon Dis­trict’s busi­ness cor­ri­dor, was in a late night “pop” of cus­tomers af­ter shows, who of­ten came in for desserts and drinks, said Men­den­hall, the owner.

“In the sum­mer­time, we keep our kitchen open late and also of­fer late night food and drink spe­cials, so it was a re­ally great fit for us,” she said.

The sec­ond sea­son of the Le­vitt opens May 30.

The Le­vitt is close to the Ore­gon Dis­trict and a va­ri­ety of down­town busi­nesses and maybe the venue can use its dig­i­tal screens to pro­mote the walk­a­bil­ity, some busi­ness own­ers said. Con­tact this re­porter at 937225-0749 or email Cor­nelius. Fro­lik@cox­inc.com.

COR­NELIUS FRO­LIK / STAFF

The Le­vitt Pav­il­ion was a hit, at­tract­ing about 25,000 down­town dur­ing its in­au­gu­ral sea­son. Some con­cert-go­ers vis­ited nearby bars and restau­rants af­ter the mu­sic ended.

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