Kettering’s Fraze Pavilion looks to compete with newer venues

The city of Kettering is infusing $1 million into the Fraze Pavilion next year as it hires a promoter for the first time and makes other changes to help attract acts to the concert venue.

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The Fraze has annually generated $4.5 million for Kettering and has been a staple for concert season since 2001, with acts like the Avett Brothers, Little Big Town, and Earth Wind and Fire coming to town.

But with the opening of the Rose Music Center in Huber Heights and downtown Dayton’s Levitt Pavilion, Kettering city officials are working to make sure the venue can still compete.

A major shift in management of the facility occurred in August, when longtime Fraze general manager Karen Durham submitted her resignation and left to become the new executive director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority in Georgia.

“We have not begun the recruiting process for her replacement and are still discussion when that process will start,” Assistant City Manager Steve Bergstresser said. “We don’t have a time frame at this point but there are Fraze staff in place that is handling day-to-day operations and responsibilities.”

Durham worked for the city for over 20 years and since 2000 served as the general manager for the Fraze. She was responsible for executing the programming for more than 50 concerts and events during a 16-week period during the summer. She led a team of three full-time employees and 250-plus seasonal employees and about 50 volunteers.

Four years ago, Kettering city officials invested $1.5 million to build a new patio area within the fountains, upgrade the fountains and construct a new light tower/signature entrance way to the seating area.

Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman noted that the city planned to continue improvements to the operational side of the Fraze, including backstage, office space and concession areas. A new pathway and new lighting, furniture and fixtures also will be installed throughout Lincoln Park, he said.

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“The Fraze Pavilion is certainly a community asset, a regional asset and it brings a sense of place to the city of Kettering,” Schwieterman said, when the improvements were announced. “It is of extreme importance to us as it sits in the middle of Lincoln Park Civic Commons. While it is important that we sell tickets, it’s important that we put forward a good community image through the Fraze Pavilion.”

The city annually budgets a subsidy for Fraze, which is part of its general fund. In 2006, Kettering transferred $148,000 to the Fraze.

Council at its most recent meeting showed that it is continuing its fiscal support for the Fraze, as $1 million was appropriated to the venue for the purpose of booking entertainment. Originally, $430,000 had been budgeted for entertainment, but the additional $570,000 was needed to help secure a promoter to go after entertainment acts for next year.

“For the Fraze Pavilion 2020 season, we are utilizing a promoter,” Schwieterman said. “The promoter will be entering into contracts with performers in 2019 for the 2020 season.”

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The city also approved spending $217,000, which was in the budget, for lighting and technical director services provided by the Light Fantastic company for the Fraze to help cover additional services for late season shows.

The Fraze is an open-air 4,300 seat amphitheater, that had 39 ticketed events in 2019 and kept pace with its prior numbers of average attendance and sellouts, according to Bergstresser.

“The numbers aren’t final yet and we won’t have them until late October or early November,” he explained, adding that it is the goal for the city to maintain a high quality experience for concert and event goers in the future.

Kettering officials have said the Fraze’s customer base extends beyond the Dayton metropolitan area, with fans coming from Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis.

The Fraze is located in Kettering’s Lincoln Park and plays host annually to a bevy of concerts, festivals and other special events. In addition to national acts, Fraze offers several free and low-ticket price events throughout the season. More than 150,000 visitors attend events at the venue during the summer.

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