Campaign launches to transform Levitt Shell

The Levitt Shell has launched a $4 million Preservation Campaign that is focused on renovations to the facility while ensuring the programming remains free for the next generation.

The shell turns 80 in 2016, a celebration that will see $2 million in renovations that will enhance the concert experience for guests while improving stage access for musicians.

The remaining $2 million of the campaign will be set aside for future uses to ensure programming continues. Roughly half of the $4 million already has been raised.

“Every year on Jan. 1 the Shell starts at zero dollars and has to raise 100 percent of funds for concerts,” said Anne Pitts, Executive Director of the Levitt Shell.

It takes about $800,000 each year to maintain programming.

“Now we’re hoping to be able to sustain that and be able to put that aside so that if in any given year if there is a downturn in the economy … then we have those resources there so we don’t have to miss a beat,” Pitts said.

There are a number of ways to help. Simple donations of any kind are important, Pitts said. The Preservation 50 campaign will ask 50 families to give $11,935 each in honor of the amount it took to build the facility in 1936. Matching donations from area foundations and businesses will bring that total to $1 million.

A special paver campaign will see the installation of commemorative bricks across the front of the lawn area, serving as a walkway that connects the west side to a new community area on the east side of the stage. Pavers will cost $1,000 and $2,500 depending on location and size.

The new community area will provide a home for food trucks, merchandise, security and volunteers. This expands the lawn area while removing crowd bottlenecks.

The west side of the stage will contain a more traditional loading area for musicians.

And at the top of the hill will be the construction of a deck for sponsor events, an integral part of the funding of the Levitt Shell’s annual mission of providing 50 free concerts. The deck will take up the footprint of what has been tent space.
Construction should be complete by the end of April. Installation of sound and lights will come in May, with the concert season getting underway June 2.

Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler. 
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