$21 million concert venue planned in Lansing

click to enlarge Mayor Andy Schor on Feb. 1 announced a planned $21 million concert venue. - COURTESY OF THE CITY OF LANSING
Courtesy of the city of Lansing
Mayor Andy Schor on Feb. 1 announced a planned $21 million concert venue.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor unveiled plans for a new $21 million, 2,000-seat concert venue called “The Ovation.”

If built, The Ovation would be located in downtown Lansing at the southwest corner of South Washington Square and Lenawee Street.

“For decades, Lansing has needed a concert and performing arts venue,” Schor said in a statement. “I am tremendously excited and proud that my team has been able to make this a reality for our citizens here in Lansing and for the entire region. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to bring concerts, community events, educational opportunities, speeches, comedy, and so many other live performances together in a new, state-of-the-art venue.”

Downtown Lansing businesses have been struggling as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. For example, the state’s work-from-home policy allows more than 20,000 workers to work remotely, which has decimated area businesses.

“Bringing thousands of people to downtown Lansing for concerts and other events throughout the year will have such an incredible impact on our small businesses here,” Schor said. “This amazing venue will truly be transformational for Lansing.”

The Ovation will include a two-story main stage and retail space, office space for the Lansing Public Media Center and other nonprofits, school groups, and a private party room with a 125-person standing capacity. The third and fourth floors will include loft office spaces. 

If built with 40 studio offices, the project would cost approximately $21 million. Lansing would apply $2 million of taxpayer money and another $8 million from dedicated public access fees to the project. The city is seeking $11 million via private funding, grants, and, if needed, a bank loan for the housing and workspace lofts.

The announcement follows a 2019 AMS Research & Planning study that found 87% of residents polled supported creating a new music venue.

The study claimed the project would benefit Lansing via initial one-time construction, facility, audience spending, totaling $39 million in so-called "industrial activity generated" and $2.8 million in government revenue. 

The study estimated annual audience spending at $5.3 million. Data added after the original study estimated this venue would attract an annual attendance of 190,000 individuals and could attract 2.7 million people across 302 zip codes.

The project aims to fill a gap in the live music scene left after Mac’s Bar – a landmark venue where such internationally recognized acts as Chance the Rapper and Macklemore have performed – ended live music in 2021.

Some local live music venues only have about 400-person capacity, however Jackson Field, Spartan Stadium, the Wharton Center, the Fairchild Theater and other nearby venues offer larger capacities and have hosted celebrities including G-Eazy, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and U2 at no additional cost to taxpayers. 

City officials hope the new development will bring more young people to live, work and play in Lansing.

But John Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability, a nonprofit organization for transparent economic development policy, told The Center Square that economic impact predictions “rarely take into account the reality” of how people spend entertainment money. 

Mozena said that if the venue wasn’t built, residents would likely spend their entertainment budget locally.

“It’s really rare that the creation of a new venue, whether that’s a concert hall or a sports stadium or anything along those lines – actually ends up being a noticeable benefit to the local economy because it’s not changing how much money people have in their pockets to spend on things like that,” Mozena said in a phone interview.

Schor’s office said that several organizations, community groups, and corporations have shown interest in sponsoring the venue. Dymaxion Development is managing project construction, and Capitol Fundraising Associates is finalizing fundraising.

Lansing is expected to break ground in 2022.

Originally published by The Center Square. It is republished here with permission.

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