Downtown arts venue breaks through to daylight

A simple formula helped one of Lansing’s most elusive dreams chisel its way out of the icepack into the sunshine this week. Keep your eye on the sweet spot.

After 20 years of failed attempts under four mayors to build a performing arts center, and the collapse in May 2020 of plans to build a large-scale, $60 million facility, Mayor Andy Schor announced plans Tuesday to build a downsized concert venue and arts hub aimed directly at Lansing’s empty market niche of 1,530 seats, or 2,025 standing concertgoers. The facility, called The Ovation, is expected to hit the Goldilocks mark between the 2,000-seat Wharton Center and much smaller venues and draw national rock, country, hip-hop, comedy and other attractions that now skip Lansing to play in Detroit or Grand Rapids. The building will also be the permanent home of the Lansing Public Media Center, and, possibly, All of the Above Hip-Hop Academy, the Capital City Film Festival and the Lansing Art Gallery. Planners envision a year-round calendar of concerts, classes, recitals, art exhibits, workshops, independent film screenings and other events. 

The wild card in the project is a layer of 40 affordable “live-and-work spaces” designed to attract working artists, keep the facility busy and provide a steady source of revenue. Schor called the facility “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.” A consultant hired by the city predicted that the facility would bring in 190,000 visitors a year, 60,000 of them from out of town, and that arts center visitors would drop $5.3 million a year in Lansing.,19778