Valarium owner Gary Mitchell has been talking about developing a vast entertainment district around the warehouse club, located northwest of downtown, in the shadow of Interstate 275, since it opened in 2007. The addition of the Cider House a couple of years ago—a smaller venue in the building adjacent to the 1,000-capacity Valarium—was the first step; now Mitchell is moving ahead with his long-held ambition to transform the parking lot south of the Valarium into a large outdoor venue for concerts and festivals.
"The concert park is the only reason we're here," Mitchell says. "Right after we opened, the economy got so bad that it wasn't viable. Now we're operating on a wing and prayer, hoping that the economy will be viable again."
Mitchell and his partners purchased the property for the park in March for $175,000. He says he will spend another $275,000 on permits and improvements for the site, which he expects to be ready sometime in the fall.
There's a long road ahead before the new concert park opens; the project needs final design work, fencing, accessibility ramps, and final approval by the city. But Mitchell says he doesn't anticipate any significant delays.
The completed concert park will hold approximately 7,500 people, he says.
"We sold out about 10 shows last year that we could have moved right outside into the parking lot and sold 2,000 or 3,000 more tickets," he says.
In addition to concerts, the site will be available for outdoor festivals and car shows, Mitchell says. He says he and his partners are already planning a possible beer and wine festival.