Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center expansion aims to attract ‘big talent’

The Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center – home to the Hartford Symphony’s Talcott Mountain Music Festival each July and where top talent like Willie Nelson, The Beach Boys, Darius Rucker, Earth, Wind & Fire and Harry have performed Connick Jr. the makeover process.

As part of a seven-figure investment, the existing 7-acre city-owned bandshell in the heart of downtown Simsbury will add approximately 3,000 square feet of building space to accommodate four changing rooms, offices and storage spaces, as well as toilets. inside and outside the building.

The goal of the ongoing expansion is to continue to attract big-name talent and give nonprofits and local organizations a place to do business.

“Right now our talents go into a rented trailer and they would move to a building. If you’re talented, you want to have a place where you can store your things and change,” said Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center general manager Missy DiNunno. “It’s private and you can have your own space, whereas rented trailers are very shared spaces.”

Construction on the Iron Horse Boulevard site is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2024, with the new building expected to debut in 2025.

Regional draw

For music and arts enthusiasts, the arts center has become the go-to place for area residents and businesses, DiNunno said.

Its founding dates back to 2002, when the city acquired Baker Farm, which encompassed over 400 scenic acres located between the Farmington River and downtown. A temporary bandstand was erected, offering summer evening concerts for the next three years.

But, it soon became apparent that a new permanent bandshell was needed, so the arts center took root and the new stage with better lighting and improved acoustics opened in 2005.

Wendy Mackstutis, the city’s first coach since 2021, said “there are a few gems in town that have regional appeal. We want – with this expansion – to bring even more acts and expanded programming of a national nature.

The arts center, Mackstutis said, has also been an economic boon to the city.

“You can come – watch a show from the lawn or a table – and get takeout from one of our local restaurants or go to a package store and buy a bottle of wine,” she said. declared.

A public/private partnership between the nonprofit arts center and the city has resulted in Simsbury putting up $350,000 for bathrooms in the new space. Bids to build are expected to be between $980,000 and $1.8 million, DiNunno said. The project is expected to be paid for via fundraising and a bond; municipal funds; and state subsidies.

The arts center is in the process of presenting architectural designs for the project to the city.

Major Talent

The arts center season runs from April to October and this is where, in addition to the big stars, comedy shows, lesser-known musical groups and charity concerts are also held. The standby building will allow groups, clubs and organizations to use it during the offseason, DiNunno said.

Also, DiNunno said, expect some major talent to grace Simsbury over the next few years and particularly after the expansion is complete.

“We’re always working to find big-name talent,” DiNunno told the Hartford Business Journal, without revealing details. “We will have big names; this is our goal and this is what the community has told us they would like to see.

The bandshell — located near a playground and adjacent to a bike path — can accommodate more than 10,000 people, DiNunno said.

Prices displayed vary. Music festival tickets are $25 each for lawn seats and $50 for table seats. But, for Darius Rucker’s performance, for example, sponsor tables were $2,500 and lawn seats were $65 each, DiNunno said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the performing arts center, leading to cancellations or date changes, but its outdoor location has proven to be an advantage. It hosted more than 90 events in 2021, attracting 45,000 attendees.

It has been less active in 2022, hosting 46 events in total – ranging from sporting events/races, arts and crafts fairs, recitals, weddings, graduations, award ceremonies and stand-alone performances – with 40,000 attendees.

The arts center has two full-time employees, two part-time employees and seasonal staff. It has an annual budget of around $500,000 and usually breaks even, DiNunno said.

In addition to ticket sales, which brought in $110,000 this year, sources of revenue include individual donors; subsidize donors; venue and event sponsorships; concessions; and parking fees.