A West Side (of Denver) Story

Brooke Dilling | @brookefrances

There’s a new concert venue in town. If you haven’t heard of it yet, now is your chance to catch up on the buzz. Welcome to the West Side: Levitt Pavilion Denver opens this week  in Ruby Hill Park.

Backstory

Ruby Hill Park is located off Florida and South Platte River Drive. Maybe you’ve been sledding there? They’ve got a pretty sweet (read steep) sledding hill. Guess what else it’s perfectly suited for?  A natural amphitheater right in the heart of our great city. Levitt Pavilion Denver, located near the sledding hill in the park, will be the seventh Levitt Foundation permanent music site to open Nationwide. Another four are in the works.

Levitt Foundation is a national nonprofit featuring a nationwide network of outdoor venues presenting free concerts. They pride themselves on accessible, family friendly venues, state of the art sound and lighting, open seating, and musical acts ranging from emerging artists to acclaimed musicians. The Foundation’s mission is to “create community and social interaction among people of all ages and backgrounds; empowering cities across America to reclaim green spaces and reinvigorate public spaces; and ensuring the performing arts are accessible to all through high quality, free concerts.”

Ruby Hill Park sits high above the surrounding area. With a view of the entire city from the hill, it’s no wonder residents settled this area of Denver first. The city’s initial plans for Ruby Hill Park included construction of an amphitheater, but these plans were never realized. It took the Levitt Foundation and Levitt Pavilion Denver founder Chris Zacher to raise the funds and do the heavy lifting to bring this dream to reality, a dream five years in the making.

It’s the first concert venue of its kind in Denver, and a partnership between the Levitt Foundation and the City & County of Denver. While Levitt Pavilion Denver will own and operate the amphitheater for the next 50 years, the land itself is property of the city of Denver and is part of the city park system. The venue is is one of  the only cultural facilities on the west side of Denver and gives people on the west side easy access to art and culture in their neighborhood. While other neighborhoods like Stapleton and Glendale get free music and movies in parks in their backyard, this hasn’t been the norm across the city.  

Lineup

Levitt Pavilion Denver’s opening show is today--July 20th, complete with ribbon-cutting ceremony and a music by Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Opening weekend for the venue looks outstanding, with headliner UB40 kicking off the first ticketed show on July 21st.

In all, the venue will host 30 free concerts during its opening season. Yes, you read that correctly--30 free shows! Music lovers can also catch about six to ten ticketed shows this summer. In coming years, Levitt Pavilion will host 50 free concerts and between 20 to 30 paid shows. All shows will be general admission. According to Zacher, the plethora of free music is an opportunity for families, artists, and people of all walks of life “to have equal access to the arts.”

“Levitt Pavilion Denver is a launching pad for new artists, “ Zacher states. So while you may not see U2 or Beyonce (for free) at Levitt Pavilion Denver, you will have the chance to see a whole lot of up-and-comers. For its opening season Levitt Pavilion Denver will feature an eclectic mix of Latin, folk/Americana, rock/pop, and local Colorado music.

The amphitheater has capacity to seat 20,000 attendees. Ticketed shows will be kept to 7,500 attendees. With 7,500 seats, this place has the  seating capacity of Red Rocks. And it’s closer than Red Rocks. And cheaper than Red Rocks, too. (You did notice the free music, yes?) Free, high-quality music, in a venue this large is a big win for Denver.

Practical Tips

So you’re goin’ to a show. What can you bring along? Your blanket, lawn chairs, and picnic basket. For those not interested in the picnic option, there will also be food trucks on site. The pavilion will sell beverages--both the adult and child-friendly kind.

Bring your blanket, your dancing shoes, your party-down attitude, and your family & friends. Find some space to pop a squat and get friendly with your concert-going neighbors. It’s going to be a great summer to listen to free live music and make new connections in Ruby Hill Park. Zacher’s goal is to make Levitt Pavilion Denver the crown jewel of the city’s local music community. With what he and his team have lined up for this summer, he’s well on his way.