EASTON — The Avalon Foundation, which operates the Avalon Theatre, is building a new outdoor music venue at the Talbot Town shopping center to host concerts and other music events in the midst of the coronavirus.
A 7,000-square-foot tent will be erected on an underutilized parking lot adjacent to the Easton shopping center.
Al Bond, president and CEO of the Avalon Foundation, said the new outdoor venue aims to bring live music events to the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It will help musicians get back to work,” Bond said in an interview with The Star Democrat.
The venue is called The Avalon Foundation’s Stoltz Pavilion.
The Avalon Foundation is partnering with Stoltz Management which owns the Talbot Town shopping center on Washington Street near Harrison Street. Bond said his group has a use agreement to use the parking lot adjacent to the center. Bond said if the outdoor venue turns into a long-term effort there would likely be a more formal lease deal.
The total cost for the Avalon’s Stoltz Pavilion — including the tent, furnishings, and security — is $210,000.
The Stoltz family has been longtime and prime supporters of the Avalon Foundation and its growth into the largest arts organization on the Eastern Shore. Jack and Susan Stoltz both served on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
The Avalon Foundation worked with their son, Keith Stoltz, to create the Stoltz Listening Room, one of the leading small-capacity music venues in the country.
Bond and the foundation have also been with Keith Stoltz on development and roll out of the new outdoor venue including social distancing and other coronavirus-related best practices.
Keith Stoltz is also the owner of Electric Lady Studios in New York. He helped with the development of says to present live music safely at the new venue in Easton.
“For me the Stoltz Pavilion is a continuation of the long term commitment of the Stoltz family to the Avalon Foundation,” Keith Stoltz said in a statement. “Just as importantly it will provide a creative solution to the challenges caused by the pandemic and hopefully become a permanent addition to the community. The whole industry depends on figuring this out.”
The venue’s outdoor tent is being transported to the Eastern Shore. It is built by Vancouver-based Tentology. The company has also made tents for special events in Hong Kong, Bahrain, Silicon Valley and the Summer Olympics.
Bond said the tent is built so it does not have interior stanchions to offer unobstructed views to fans.”There’s no poles,” he said. The tent also has special contours to help with acoustics and will look a bit like the Sydney Opera House.
Bond said the Talbot Town parking lot is set lower than the surrounding buildings which will help with sound quality and reduce noise levels outside the tent. “These structures are used around the world,” Bond said.
Bond said the 7,000-square-foot tent will have 40 pods for seating between one and four persons. Initial plans call for the structure to seat between 100 to 160 people.
Bond said seating options will include love seats and barstools and there will be heating for when the weather turns colder.
He said the goal is to offer live music events when the coronavirus continues to shutdown or restrict indoor venues.”Outdoors is 20 times safer than indoors,” he said.
Bond said the Avalon hopes to bring in local, regional and other musicians for performances. The outdoor venue could debut as early as Oct. 23, he said.
The venue’s location could also help bring more business to downtown Easton restaurants and shops. “It’s close to everything but it’s also kind of tucked away,” Bond said.
Bond said if the outdoor pavilion catches on the Avalon Foundation could expand to host larger concerts and events as COVID and other circumstances safely allow. He said a longer-term, larger outdoor venue could potentially seat as many as 800 fans.
The coronavirus pandemic has cancelled or postponed a number of major events and has challenged restaurants and retailers.
Ross Benincasa, director of the Discover Easton economic development and business promotion group, welcomed the venture.
“We are extremely excited to welcome live music back to downtown Easton, especially at a brand new professional venue like only the Avalon can pull off,” Benincasa said. “While we all look at ways to pivot our organizations in the face of the pandemic, it’s inventive ideas like this that will keep our community and the arts moving forward.”
Cassandra Vanhooser, director of economic development and tourism for Talbot County, said the music venue will help downtown Easton.
“I love the way our partners at the Avalon Foundation think! They continually amaze me with their thoughtful, forward looking programming and events. The new outdoor music venue is simply another example of the innovative approach they bring to making and keeping Downtown Easton vibrant,” she said.