A project to build an outdoor performance venue in Bellefonte’s Talleyrand Park received a big financial boost from a state grant announced on Monday.
The idea for an open-air performing arts venue came about when organizers recognized a need to provide a multi-functioning outdoor performing arts facility for artists across Centre County, according to organizers.
Tom Wilson, Stage at Talleyrand Development Committee member and former Bellefonte mayor, said during a grant announcement and kick-off event held Monday at Big Springs Spirits that he hopes this project will continue Bellefonte’s history of promoting the arts.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, and Madra Clay and Evelyn Channelli of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, announced a $1 million grant for the project. Benninghoff said the venue will celebrate and expose the local artists and musical talents in the community, as well as bring more in.
“It’s an opportunity to really reinvest in our community,” Benninghoff said. “I see this as a catalyst for many great things here in Bellefonte.”
He said he was proud to be part of this project and to bring money back into the community to support it.
“…Isn’t that what our community is about? Investing today for the future and future generations,” Benninghoff said.
The estimated cost of the project is $2.5 million, according to materials from the committee. It would be located in the Talleyrand Park Annex, near the former Subway restaurant that’s now a Pelican’s SnoBalls shop.
Rick Jacobs, co-chair of the development committee, said the project will start “in earnest” next year. By then, they’ll have the property needed from the borough and they can start working on it, doing surveys and eventually break ground.
The design of the bandshell was done by a local architect, Mike Leakey, of Hoffman Leakey Architects. They’ve been with the committee for about nine months. It has been important to him to provide a first class stage or venue that fits in with historic Bellefonte and the nature of the area, he said.
“We think the park is an awesome place. There’s a lot of things that can be developed and there are other projects that are going on at the same time that we want to start to integrate in with what we’re doing with the stage,” Leakey said.
Talleyrand Park is home to Summer Sounds from The Gazebo and other musical events. But the sound goes “everywhere but where it should go,” Jacobs said.
“Having a really first-rate stage where we can not only do music, but we can do plays, we can have the symphony — it will be big enough to house the Nittany Valley Symphony — we can do all sorts of things with this new bandshell that will be sitting right outside the door,” he said.
What the Stage at Talleyrand needs now is support, he said, and not just financially. They want there to be a “buzz” around Centre County about what’s to come with the project. It will not only serve the Bellefonte area, but the entire county, Wilson said.
“We are in the center of Centre County and that makes it all the better. We have access from I-99 and Route 80 to come here. We don’t expect to cause a whole lot of traffic. This stage is really for performers who live in Centre County, for the most part,” Wilson said.