Rose Ann Hofland, Director of Communications and Community Engagement for Levitt at the Falls
“For every element of the Levitt Shell, I think about the people who came together to make it possible. Everyone played their part, and I am so incredibly proud of the Sioux Falls community for coming together to make this mission a reality,” Catherine Dekkenga—Levitt at the Falls board member.
The Sioux Falls Levitt project is a three way partnership between the local Friends of the Levitt Shell Sioux Falls Board, the national Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, and the City of Sioux Falls. All three parties 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. Of the $4.6 million needed for the project, the City covered $2.5 million, the Foundation provided $500,000, and generous donations from businesses and the community, led through the Chamber of Commerce Appeals process, covered the rest.
After reviewing numerous public spaces, Falls Park was identified as the prime location for Levitt Shell Sioux Falls, specifically the southwest portion of the park, Falls Park West. Falls Park West has played host to a variety of successful annual events over the past decade, 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. Re-developed into a public park and concert venue, the site that was once a brownfield is now a part of the city’s Parks and Recreation system and a concert destination for the community.
While the National Levitt Foundation has design standards that each of the permanent venues must adhere to, much of the design and concept is left to local control. Sioux Falls is the 8th permanent Levitt venue, and each Levitt has its own aesthetic and look to fit in its respective community. The Levitt Steel Stacks Pavilion in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is located at the base of the iconic Bethlehem blast furnaces on the Steel Stacks arts and culture campus. Denver’s Levitt is located in the natural bowl at Ruby Hill Park, overlooking the skyline from the city’s highest point of elevation.
The Sioux Falls Levitt Shell design started locally. Board co-chairs Tom Dempster and Jennifer Kirby sat down with local architects Catherine Dekkenga and Mark Aspaas to talk about the concept of the Levitt. The group had some key goals when developing the concept for the Levitt in Sioux Falls. “We thought about what Levitt would mean to our community and into the future for our kids and our grandkids,” said Dekkenga. They also wanted the design to reflect and complement the Sioux Falls community. Elements such as the Jasper quarry stone was a component that helped to emphasize this as a uniquely Sioux Falls location. The waves on the roof were also a key component to subtly reflect the Falls and the nearby Big Sioux River. After the local group developed the design concept, Denver-based architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs was hired to create the concert space, breathing life into the homegrown design.
Teams of community stakeholders were brought together at numerous points in the design process—local sound engineers were brought in to discuss the acoustical elements of the space, food truck operators were brought in to discuss truck placements and needs, Levitt Executive Directors from around the country consulted on equipment for the green room and dressing rooms, and a Facilities Committee was established by the Friends of the Levitt Shell Sioux Falls Board to oversee the design process.
Over and over again, stakeholders gave of their time and resources to make the Sioux Falls Levitt Shell a reality. It was and continues to be a true community effort and a testament to Sioux Falls.
Chase Kramer, AIA, is an architect with TSP Inc. in Sioux Falls. He received his M.Arch from ISU where he focused on urban design and sustainability. Before that, he received a degree in Art from Augustana University. He lives in Sioux Falls with his wife and two daughters. Beyond Architecture, he is a musician, art lover, and fan of cheese and beer.