There has been considerable speculation about the possibility of putting a Levitt Pavilion in St. James Park. I am going to provide some basic information and dispel some myths about the project, which should then inform any and all discussions.
The Levitt Foundation is a nation-wide funder of Levitt Pavilions, which are community-based venues for family friendly music. They now exist in seven U.S. cities. In order to be chosen by the Levitt Foundation, each of these pavilions share basic characteristics and requirements.
The first condition is that a Levitt Pavilion must help transform a park or other space, which is why St. James Park is ideal. The need is clear. Levitt is not interested in building a pavilion in a space that already works. It should be noted that the Levitt Foundation sought out San Jose, talking and meeting with city staff over several months to assess need and requirements.
Second, the space must be a certain size, able to hold an audience (lawn seating) of at least a few thousand people. Ideally, the location should also be accessible by public transportation.
What makes a Levitt Pavilion such a good investment is that the foundation provides funding to help build it, committing $400,000 to an effort that will likely cost about $2.5 million total. The funding does not go to a city or governmental body, but to a community-based nonprofit organization that must be formed to build and oversee operations.
This “Friends of Levitt Pavilion” group must raise funds from the start, so that the venue is truly part of the community. This group must also have the capacity to raise approximately $750,000 annually. Being part of the Levitt “family” includes an annual support grant of $200,000 for the first four years and $150,000 a year after that.
Again, this private, nonprofit organization must be based in San Jose and serve the people of San Jose. There must be at least 50 Free Concerts annually and they are all designed to attract family audiences. The city becomes a partner, in that it will own the pavilion and is responsible for overall maintenance, but a Levitt Pavilion has its own professional staff that includes operations, production management, fundraising and marketing.
The Levitt Foundation’s national staff provides additional financial support for special projects, training and more. Cities that have the pavilions form a family to help each other, including sharing performers, marketing insight and fundraising techniques.
Having seen families gather to enjoy concerts in Los Angeles and Pasadena, I believe a Levitt Pavilion in San Jose will not only work amicably with the immediate neighborhood, but also serve the entire community through a variety of music programming. Owned and operated by San Jose residents, it will stay on course to serve everyone for a long time to come.
It will have a very positive impact on St. James Park, fitting in nicely as one of the key pieces that make San Jose a wonderful place.