As the curtain closes on another season of entertainment under the stars at the Levitt Pavilion, the nonprofit faces the challenge of promoting its biggest star: itself. The amphitheater has impressive plans for a new stage and venue to showcase its fifty nights of free entertainment each summer.
The reconstruction will open up the river views and feature a number of new amenities, such as an information booth, concession stand, and permanent indoor bathrooms. The stage, the focal point of the entertainment, will be larger and luminously roofed. And when you lay out your picnic blanket, it will be on a sloped ground, all the better to see the action on stage.
The renovation is the Levitt Pavilion’s campaign to improve the site’s facilities, which, in turn, will also buoy Westport’s downtown. Architect Peter Cadoux hopes that by creating a state-of-the-art sound arena, the site will continue to attract high-caliber entertainment and become an even more vibrant town destination. The construction is LEED-certified, meaning it will be completely eco-friendly.
He also hopes that by thinning the trees, installing picnic tables, and improving the River Walk, the Levitt Pavilion peninsula will provide better access to the Saugatuck River: Enjoy a lunch by the river at noon; come back at sunset for a show.
“Each and every component is fantastic, so I’m biased,” says Freda Welsh, executive director of the pavilion. “What will have the most impact is the signature roof that Peter has designed. It will serve as a beacon, encouraging people to come and enjoy each performance.”
Levitt board member and spokesman for the campaign Kenneth Bernhard points to the project’s potential capacity to spur economic activity. He cites statistics that suggest that nonresident Levitt visitors spend an average $39 downtown per visit, while residents spend on average $17 downtown per visit. Bottom line: more people, more local business. “It’s an investment with ensured payback,” Cadoux says.
Despite the heftiness of the project, the Levitt Pavilion will remain true to its original mission to present world-class arts and entertainment free-of-charge. The Town of Westport has approved a contribution of $1.1 million to the Pavilion, which remains an independent non-profit. The majority of the $7.5 million renovation depends on private donations, which the Pavilion is raising through a capital campaign.
The project is scheduled to be completed in time for the opening of the 2013 season.
(Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it’s publication in the September/October issue of Westport)