The Fraze Pavilion has been an entertainment staple in the Miami Valley region since 1991, and fans of the venue as well as performers are hoping to see it continue its run as a destination point for concerts.
The Fraze, located in Lincoln Park, has annually generated $4.5 million in revenue for Kettering and has been a solid revenue producer for concert season since 1991, with local, regional and national acts converging on the city to perform, as well as festivals and other special events.
Kettering officials have said the Fraze’s customer base extends beyond the Dayton metropolitan area, with fans coming from Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis.
Local resident Gary Myers says the Fraze has been a pleasant experience over the years and like any establishment, could use a little tweaking.
Myers went to see Diana Ross perform this summer and also enjoys events like the annual Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest.
“What is good about going there is that it always feels like a community gathering even though you don’t have to live there in Kettering,” he said. “It is also easy to get around even with large crowds.”
He wishes parking was better.
“It is not easy to find parking and I do think it helps that you can park across the street at the school, but it gets very congested,” he said.
The Fraze, which cost $2.7 million to build, is an open-air, 4,300-seat amphitheater, that had 39 ticketed events in 2019 and was named after inventor Ermal Fraze, who created the pull-tab can opener.
The seating is something that appeals to Lisa Watson, who comes from Greene County to check out concerts.
“I liked going there a lot. I’ve only been there twice and sat in the seats both times. I think you can see good though even if you’re in the grass,” she said.
But it is the outdoor atmosphere that one of its competitors is challenging, and more competition from another outdoor entertainment facility that presents some challenges.
The Rose Music Center opened 5 years ago and has held 171 shows since opening and sold nearly 500,000 tickets. It is a covered amphitheater design that can seat 4,200 guests.
The Levitt Pavilion in downtown Dayton just concluded its first full season. In addition to the free concerts, the pavilion was used by nine community organizations for their events. With the addition of these community events, the space was used by almost 73,000 people from all over the region.
Watson said it’s good that the Fraze has seats down front, but “there is no roof anywhere.” She added that the Levitt seemed like a good location for music, but still likes the Fraze.
Timothy Walker says not having a roof at the Fraze can be costly for those attending an event when the elements aren’t friendly.
“Throughout the years, I’ve lost hundreds of dollars due to rain outs at the Fraze, as well as thousands of others. The Rose comes along and fixes that problem by having a roof. No rain outs at the Rose means the Fraze cannot compete for my money,” Walker said.
Donna Holt agrees and remembered experiencing the under-the-roof experience not at the Rose, but in Chautauqua, N.Y., at the city’s Institution Amphitheater, which just opened a $41.5 million facility with roof intact.
“That would be something nice to add at the Fraze — a roof,” she said.
Eva Costa weighs some of the pros and cons about both venues and finds that there something to like about each one.
“I think the Rose is better because its protected in the event of inclement weather,” she said. “It’s harder to dance at the Rose, but behind the seats at the Fraze is an open area you can dance in.”
Cara Hieb and Lauren Piper Harker both love the Fraze and think it will continue to appeal to people who like its “community feel.”
“For the last couple of years I’ve heard people say they like the Rose better,” Hieb said. “But I think the good thing about the Fraze is that it’s very community oriented.”
Harker said the Fraze is a “smaller venue but I’ve enjoyed it when I’ve gone. The seats in the back are bleachers and have a decent view but are super far away. I like the lawn.”
Anna McClure is another resident who liked to travel to Kettering to see concerts and go to special events at the Fraze.
“Yes, I love the Fraze. It feel more homey,” she said.
Kevin McCloskey of the Brass Tracks Band, has played the Kettering venue and wants to continue making appearances there.
Karen Durham, the longtime Fraze general manager, left her post in August after being at the helm since 2001. Walker and other performers wanted to know if that would affect bookings.
Assistant City Manager Steve Bergstresser said the show will go on and that a search for Durham’s replacement will be announced, but in the interim, the Fraze staff will handle business as usual and discussions of comments and concerns.
“We have not begun the recruiting process for her replacement and are still discussion when that process will start,” Bergstresser said. “We don’t have a time frame at this point but there are Fraze staff in place that is handling day-to-day operations and responsibilities.”
Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman said for the 2020 season the city will be utilizing a promoter to book entertainment at the Fraze.
“The promoter will be entering into contracts with performers in 2019 for the 2020 season,” he said.