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Public financing sought for new roof for outdoor downtown concert venue
Charlottesville Pavilion, April 10, 2018
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Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow
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Sean Tubbs | Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 11:34 p.m.

The general manager of the Sprint Pavilion at the eastern end of the Downtown Mall appeared before the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority on Tuesday to ask for an expansion of a loan that would help pay for a new fabric roof for the structure.

“As you stand up there and look at it, you can see that it is clearly showing different levels of wear,” Kirby Hutto said. “One of our goals in doing this is to integrate all of that and have it be more attractive.”

The city entered into a lease for the pavilion area with CEDA in December 2003. CEDA then subleased the property to Charlottesville Pavilion, a limited liability corporation with ties to the manager of the Dave Matthews Band.

“We knew the roof had a limited lifespan and had been told 12 to 15 years,” Hutto said. “We’re at that point now.”

Hutto said the total project budget is $1.5 million, and his company is asking CEDA to contribute a third of that by expanding on the existing loan.

Charlottesville Pavilion has an outstanding balance of $775,000 from a CEDA loan that originated in 2004, according to Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director.

Authority members will be asked to make a decision at a future meeting.

“At this point, we want to be able to hear about and have a chance to ask questions and have some paperwork drawn up,” Engel said.

Adding to the loan’s balance will not change the minimum payments but will extend the amount of time Charlottesville Pavilion has to pay off the balance.

“I fully support this and I think it’s a great benefit to the community and a good return on our investment,” said Tara Boyd, chairwoman of the authority.

Hutto said that infrastructure underneath the roof has been installed in phases in response to community concerns about noise. He also said some equipment has been installed to meet the standards of professional touring companies.

“The rigging grid above the stage was about a $250,000 investment,” Hutto said. “Upgraded backstage facilities [were built] in the basement of the Key Center with additional restrooms, artist green rooms and production offices to make it so the venue is more comfortable so that tours want to be here. As a small market, we are always at a competitive disadvantage when we are trying to talk to some of the booking agents about bringing some of the bigger names here.”

Hutto said the white roof has been soiled by an accumulation of grime that the project’s consultants have said might come from the diesel engines that idle on the railroad tracks to the immediate south of the pavilion.

“We probably got a little bit of a late start with getting a cleaning program in place because we didn’t anticipate that we were going to get that type of build-up as quickly as we did,” Hutto said.

Hutto said the economic impact of the pavilion to the local community is strong.

“We average about 110,000 patrons annually,” he said. “That’s between our Fridays at Five and our ticketed concerted events along with our ticketed festival events.”

Hutto said an economic study in 2012 concluded that the average patron spent $27.94 outside of the concert venue during their trip.

“Since we have opened, we’ve paid out over $380,000 just in city meals tax,” Hutto said. “All of our beer sales are subject to the meals tax so that is a direct flow of revenue back into the city coffers.”

The project will not need to go through the Board of Architectural Review again because the exterior design will remain the same.

“We have a lot invested in the arches and the pylons, so changing all of that would be a whole different ball game,” Hutto said.

One change is that the material that covers the rear of the stage during concerts will be all white rather than the gray fabric that currently serves that purpose.

Hutto said the hope is to remove the existing roof at the end of the current season in November and have the new one installed by March 31, 2019.

“That’s a fairly ambitious schedule, but everyone seems to think it is doable provided the weather cooperates,” Hutto said.

The CEDA will take a formal vote on the loan expansion at a later date.
 

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