It’s Magic! How the Levitt Came to Sioux Falls
The Levitt at the Falls project is a three way partnership between the local Friends of the Levitt Shell Sioux Falls (Levitt at the Falls) non-profit, the National Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, and the City of Sioux Falls. All three partners played a key role in Sioux Falls securing the 8th permanent Levitt venue in the nation. The process began in 2011, making the Sioux Falls Levitt Shell a project almost 10 years in the making.
Tom Dempster, soon-to-be Friends of Levitt Sioux Falls Board Chair, received a call from his old high school friend and Sioux Falls native, Tim Boe, who was living in Pasadena, Calif.—home to a Levitt outdoor concert venue. Boe told him: “Sioux Falls needs a Levitt.” Embracing the potential of community building through music, Tom put together a group of community leaders who shared this vision, and they invited Sharon Yazowski, Levitt Foundation Executive Director to Sioux Falls for the first of many visits.
After reviewing numerous public spaces, Falls Park West was identified as the best location for Levitt Shell Sioux Falls. The undeveloped Falls Park West has played host to a variety of successful annual events, pointing to its tremendous promise as a place for more consistent programming. The site also helped to connect the bustling business district of South Phillips Avenue to Falls Park, Sioux Falls’ number one tourist attraction.
Friends of the Levitt Shell Sioux Falls non-profit was incorporated with the state of South Dakota in November of 2012 and received its 501©(3) non-profit status in March of 2013. Fundraising to support the building of the Levitt Shell could begin, along with further collaboration with the City of Sioux Falls.
The Levitt Shell Sioux Falls was selected as one of two projects to receive the support of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals Campaign. Levitt at the Falls was approved for a 2016 fund drive of $1.06 million based on criteria of community need and project impact.
In February of 2016, Sioux Falls City Council approved the public/private partnership to build and sustain Levitt at the Falls, marking a major milestone for the project. According to Levitt at the Falls Board Chair Jennifer Kirby, it was then “full steam ahead!”
With an initial design concept developed by local architects, Catherine Dekkenga and Mark Aspaas, Denver-based architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs was selected to lead design of the site in partnership with national mechanical and acoustic professionals and local engineers and landscape architects to see the project through, including Stockwell Engineers, Structural Engineering Associates, MEP Engineering & Lighting and A/V & Acoustics.
Levitt at the Falls conducted its Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals campaign November 1, 2106 – March 31, 2017 with a goal to begin construction at the site in 2018.
Capital Campaign Break-Down:
City of Sioux Falls $2,500,000
National Levitt Foundation $500,000
Levitt Sioux Falls Private Fundraising $540,000
Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals Campaign $1,060,000
Total Project Cost (including sound and lighting equipment) $4,600,000
April 2018: The Levitt Shell groundbreaking takes place and construction commences on the Levitt Shell. The development includes a covered outdoor amphitheater, event lawn, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and a large video board. Other features include support facilities, public restrooms, connective pathways, landscaping, art, architectural elements, and signage.
August 2018: Executive Director Nancy Halverson was hired to lead the Levitt at the Falls local non-profit and begin fundraising and programming for the inaugural 2019 concert season
August 3, 2018: Levitt at the Falls hosted the Levitt National Tour of Paul Thorn & the Blind Boys of Alabama, a free concert at 8th & Railroad Center as a precursor to the 2019 inaugural concert season
Construction is completed in spring of 2019 with the official ribbon cutting taking place on June 5, 2019.
Friday, June 14, 2019: Levitt at the Falls celebrates its inaugural concert with GRAMMY-nominated gospel and blues artist, Ruthie Foster. Levitt National Foundation Board Chair Liz Levitt is in attendance.
30 free concerts made up the Inaugural Season which spanned form June-August and brought free, live, professional music to over 58,000 community members.
Above: Tim Boe’s family touring the Levitt prior to opening night.
Above: Falls Park West prior to Levitt construction
Above: Levitt at the Falls ground-breaking
Above: Levitt at the Falls board members sign the beam at the roof raising
Above: Levitt at the Falls construction in progress