By Jeremy Meyer, The Denver Post
Denver officials hope Ruby Hill Park on the city’s west side will become a regional attraction after the construction of a new amphitheater and a plan to host 50 free concerts every year starting in 2016.
“It is a super exciting thing,” said Councilman Chris Nevitt. “It will fantastic. Instead of being a neglected, ignored part of the city. I hope this will trigger a west side renaissance. … The Levitt Pavilion lets us make a fundamental sea change, changing the whole west side.”
The plan for the park was announced earlier this year, and now City Council must approve the cooperation agreement between the city, the national Levitt Pavilions and a local foundation set up to raise money for the pavilion.
The council also must approve a funding agreement for the $4 million project — $2 million from the Better Denver Bond program, $400,000 from the Levitt national program and $1.6 million to be raised by the Friends of Levitt Pavilion Denver.
The Levitt Pavilions is a foundation based in Beverly Hills, Calif., that contributes money toward performance venues across the country. Pavilions have been constructed around the country, including in Pasadena, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Bethlehem, Penn. The foundation’s concept is to transform underused public spaces and turn them into destinations, “creating community through music,” according to Levitt officials.
Levitt has promised $100,000 a year for ongoing operational support of the amphitheater. The venue will host concerts year round, including “local, national and international acts,” according to a media release from the foundation. Some will be ticketed but 50 will be free in the naturally grassy bowl in the middle of the park.
“If you are going to build community, you don’t need seats,” Nevitt said. “Having it all be like a picnic is central to their concept.”
Chris Zacher, executive director of City Park Jazz who will be working to book the Levitt venue, said all the bands will be paid. Twenty-five to 50 of the events will feature Colorado-based artists, he said, “to give them a springboard and platform.”
The venue will be operated by the nonprofit Friends of Levitt Pavilion Denver. The city recently completed $4 million worth of improvements in Ruby Hill that included a playground and a picnic shed. The park runs from Florida Avenue to Jewell Avenue, along South Platte River Drive.