Concerts will start May 31 with Jan and Dean and The Kingsmen.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Build it and they will come.
That is the idea behind a plan by a township businessman to place an outdoor theater along the township's busy U.S. Route 224 shopping district. Several bands have already signed up to play at the restaurant.
No, it will not be as large as the proposed convocation center in Youngstown, Youngstown State University's stadium or Edward W. Powers Auditorium, but Dave Roberts, owner of the Bull & amp; Bear Tavern on U.S. Route 224, says his theater will be the next big thing in Boardman.
Roberts is in the early stages of installing an outdoor theater -- called the B & amp;B Backstage -- in the tavern's rear parking lot complete with seating for about 1,000 people and a permanent stage. A $23,000, 6-foot-high fence has already been installed around the entire perimeter of the parking lot where spectators will be seated. Owners are planning to add roofing that will cost in excess of $75,000.
The setup is simple. The stage is permanently set in the rear of the lot, and when there is no event, patrons of the tavern can park in the covered lot just as if it were a carport. On show nights, however, benches that convert into seats with tables will be brought out, additional lighting put in place and a sound system with all the makings of a concert hall turned up.
A full-service bar will be brought to the lot, and a variety of food will be served from outdoor vending stands.
Room for a view
Eddie Pannutti, promoter, has seen the idea work in other areas and thinks it will be a huge success here. He said the intimacy of the theater will be its main attraction.
Those who do not get one of the 1,000 seats will find standing room to the sides of the seating area and the stage. Either way, Pannutti expects each person to have a view good enough to clearly see the pearly whites of any artist on stage.
"We really felt that the area needed something like this, the ability to see these bands without having to drive all the way to Cleveland or Pittsburgh. This way we can keep it all right here," he said.
Pannutti said the theater is slated to open May 31 featuring Jan and Dean with special guest The Kingsmen, but will eventually offer a variety of music for everybody. Ticket prices will be considerably less than in larger areas for the same shows, he said.
According to Pannutti, neighboring businesses do not have a problem with the idea. In fact, he said, several have agreed to allow show-goers to park in their lots for a small fee that will go to charity. Other businesses will also benefit, he said, from the influx of people to the area on show nights.
"When those thousand-plus people leave here hungry, they have to go somewhere. They all can't fit in here. I only have room for a little more than a hundred," he said.