The Freeman Stage in Selbyville hopes to get a jumpstart in 2021 with a larger venue and a new name.
Freeman Stage officials feel 2021 is the right time to transition to a new name - the Freeman Arts Pavilion - as its expansion plans move ahead.
Given the pandemic and what we endured in 2020, our Board of Directors approved us moving forward with Freeman Arts Pavilion in 2021 in a phased approach.” said Patti Grimes, executive director of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation.
Grimes says the Freeman Arts Pavilion will expand on the existing Freeman Stage site, using an adjacent property. Last November, the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission approved an interim site plan for that property.
“Our Board of Directors actually approved the planning of the Freeman Arts Pavilion several years ago. We've been in the planning stages," said Grimes "We’ve have the approvals for the project, which ultimately when it’s finished, will have a covered stage, with some covered seating and a grand lawn.”
The new set-up will allow up to 500 four-person seating pods, with an eventual capacity of 4,000 seats, up from 2,700 seats pre-COVID. 1,100 of the new seats will be covered.
Grimes says there will also be new lighting and video equipment, an expanded concession and dining area and a larger artist dressing room and production space when the project is completed in four to six years.
A capital campaign is underway to raise the needed funding for the proposed $27 million upgrade. Grimes notes that $20 million has already been raised.
Construction is expected to finish in four to six years.
Grime says that acts are being booked for the 2021 season, including many forced to cancel last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 lineup will be announced this spring.
The Freeman Stage managed to hold 49 performances between July and September last year despite the pandemic.
It hosted a total of over 11,000 audience members at the open-air venue using “seating pods,” hand sanitizer stations, and mask requirements.