SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– In about seven weeks, the atmosphere in downtown Sioux Falls will change- the Levitt Shell will have its first concert on Friday, June 14. This year concerts at the Levitt Shell in Sioux Falls will go until August 10. And the concert venue will bring more to the area than just live music.
It’s been called the Levitt Shell and Levitt at the Falls.
“Levitt Shell is the actual building; Levitt at the Falls is kind of the name of the whole space,” Friends of Levitt Executive Director Nancy Halverson said.
Halverson says the local organization Friends of Levitt, the national nonprofit Levitt Foundation, and donors have financed this space near the Big Sioux River. The Levitt Shell isn’t unique to Sioux Falls; there are eight venues around the country.
“All of the Levitt shells provide free concerts to their community,” Halverson said. “And the idea is that bringing people together through music builds the strength of your community.”
The concerts might be free, but the musicians’ time is not; they’re going to be paid. Local and national musicians will take the stage. 2019 will bring 30 concerts. After that, there will be 50 shows every year.
“We have everything from Grammy Award-winning Flor de Toloache, who is an all-female mariachi coming to play our stage, to some of our very best local performers,” Halverson said. “I’m not going to name them yet, because we have a big season reveal on May 9, but I will tease you and say that a third of our acts this year are from South Dakota.”
Saxophonist Joel Shotwell of Sioux Falls is a member of JAS Quintet, a jazz band which will also play the Levitt Shell this year.
“It’s another place for us to perform and get out in front of people,” Shotwell said. “I think for a lot of people, it’ll be a way for us to get in front of people that normally wouldn’t see us, or maybe some people don’t want to go to a bar and listen to a band.”
Jimmy Speirs plays trumpet in JAS Quintet, and is also executive director of Arts South Dakota.
“We do arts advocacy and service for the arts sector across the state,” Speirs said. “As I like to affectionately say, we’re the cheerleaders for the arts in South Dakota. We’re always telling the good stories about the arts and trying to be that connective tissue, that networking tool for the arts in South Dakota.”
He believes the Levitt Shell will offer something the city doesn’t have right now.
“We have lots of great arts facilities in Sioux Falls, lots of amazing arts organizations,” Speirs said. “We have great venues, but I don’t think we have anything quite like Levitt that will bring folks together in an outdoor atmosphere.”
“We don’t have a large outdoor venue,” Halverson said. “We have the Pavilion which is great, we have the Orpheum which is great, we needed a space in between those, and having it as an outdoor space even makes it more special.”
Bringing people downtown means bringing money downtown, too.
“What this is going to mean to our community is approximately $5 million in revenue every summer,” Halverson said. “That’s because people will come downtown, they’ll want to have dinner, they’ll want to go see other activities while they’re downtown.”
“I think it’s just going to kind of help the music community and the downtown restaurants and stuff like that out a lot,” Shotwell said.
Soon the space will look and sound a lot different- it’ll be alive with different artists’ performances.
“I know the Levitt Shell is going to be very focused and consistent on presenting Sioux Falls artists and South Dakota artists,” Speirs said. “So that’s pretty exciting.”
A lot will be happening here. But there’s something about a live concert that’s simplifying.
“I think in today’s world of how fast-paced it is, how digital our relationships are so often, for us to come down here and listen to live music, the sound waves coming out into the audience, us interacting with people from our community, there’s no replacement for that,” Speirs said. “There’s no way to replicate that except by just doing it.”