Scenes from the 2019 Levitt Pavilion season opener on May 30. The show was the first of 50-plus free concerts that will be held at the venue at Dave Hall Plaza, 36 S. Main St. in downtown Dayton in 2019. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Photo: Tom Gilliam
Photo: Tom Gilliam

Dayton music pavilion draws big, diverse crowds to second-year shows

After a strong debut last year, Levitt Pavilion Dayton has managed to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump with another eclectic lineup of free concerts that are bringing out big crowds.

The free outdoor music amphitheater at East Fifth and South Main streets already has welcomed almost 17,000 people this year, which is about two-thirds the total attendance of its 2018 shows.

While supporters say the crowd sizes are exceeding expectations, they also say that what might be most impressive is that such a diverse group of community members gather each week on the pavilion’s lawn for the shared experience of free music.

Levitt, which is part of a national network of free-music pavilions, is a proven model, and the trend seen in Dayton’s Levitt sister cities is for pavilion attendance to grow as the community connects to the “high-caliber experience,” said Lisa Wagner, executive director of the Levitt Pavilion Dayton.

“We are seeing more and more new faces on the lawn of people that are still discovering us,” she said.

MORE: The Breeders to play free concert in downtown Dayton

Levitt Pavilion Dayton is a state-of-the-art amphitheater at Dave Hall Plaza that hosts free concerts Thursday to Saturday, and some Sundays, between late May and late September.

The music venue, which is on vacation during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, will host at least 53 free events this year.

The pavilion, which receives funding for programming as part of the national network of free music pavilions, has committed to putting on at least 50 free concerts each year. Dayton’s shows resume July 11.

Last year, during its inaugural season, the pavilion only hosted 33 concerts because it opened so late in the summer, in August.

Still, the 33 concerts attracted nearly 26,000 visitors, which was heralded as a major success by supporters, donors, elected leaders and some downtown businesses.

Levitt Pavilion Dayton has hosted 16 musical performances this year that attracted nearly 17,000 visitors.

The venue had a record-setting crowd of more than 5,000 people during the Dayton Funk All-Stars concert on June 29. A massive crowd is expected when alternative rock group The Breeders play a free show on Sept. 20.

And sizable crowds turned out even when there was bad weather during the opening weeks of Levitt’s second season.

“Despite the weather, we are still averaging 1,000 people on the lawn,” Wagner said.

MORE: Big surprises coming to Levitt Pavilion this year

Last year’s shortened season was like a teaser, and the pavilion’s growing audience can be chalked up to the venue being comfortable, friendly, easy and free and hosting a wide range of talented musical performers, said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

“Dayton is a music town,” she said.

Gudorf said the Levitt is bringing many people downtown, and nearby businesses on concert nights are seeing increased traffic.

Levitt adds to downtown’s entertainment options and dovetails well with other new and in-development projects and amenities, like the Flyer, a free shuttle bus, and the revitalization of the Dayton Arcade and Fire Blocks District, Gudorf said.

The Levitt has been described as downtown’s new “living room” — a central attraction of a new urban neighborhood in the heart of the center city.

“It’s in an area where we are seeing new investment and continued investment,” Gudorf said. “By all indications, they are hitting a home run.”

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