Work on permanent outdoor concert venue set to start at Levings Park

Illustration of planned stage at Levings Park concert venue. (Rockford Park District image)

Two summer entertainment series at Levings Park will have a permanent performance space by next summer.

Hard Rock Casino Rockford, Ringland-Johnson Construction (RJC), and the Rockford Park District have unveiled plans to build a venue at the popular Rockford park.

Construction is scheduled to begin later this month and is expected to be completed before the first summer concert in 2024.

Levings Park, 1420 S. Pierpont Ave. is a regional destination that provides unique recreational experiences plus two entertainment series that run each summer.

Music, arts and culture are easy to find almost every Sunday during the summer thanks to the free Live at Levings and the Domingos en el Parque entertainment series.

Both were relocated this summer to Black Hawk Park and when they return to Levings it will be to a venue that includes a concrete stage, cedar structure and a durable metal roof along with upgraded lighting and sound equipment.

“Hard Rock’s commitment to the Rockford region goes beyond the four walls of our casino,” said Geno Iafrate, President of Hard Rock Casino Rockford. “We are honored to be a part of the long history of entertainment at Levings Park. We envision this venue as not just an entertainment destination, but as a platform for cultural enrichment, a hub for local talent, and a catalyst for unforgettable experiences.”

The planned Levings Park venue will feature an 807-square-foot stage and timber structure, two 165-square-foot dressing rooms each with air conditioning and heat, plus an completely accessible stage.

Costs for architecture, engineering, and construction are being funded thanks to Ringland- Johnson Construction and Hard Rock Casino.

“Together with Hard Rock Casino Rockford and the Rockford Park District, we at RJC are helping to design and build a community stage where art, music, and joy will unite, creating a lasting impression on the soul of the city,” said Scott Mutton, vice president of Design, Ringland-Johnson Inc.

In 2019, the Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners approved a resolution of support for the proposed Hard Rock Casino in Rockford. The District was also named a philanthropy partner for the casino because of the District’s commitment to improve the quality of life for all citizens and to unite a diverse community through the power of play and music.

“Hard Rock Casino Rockford is all in on investing in area youth, and this partnership will provide financial resources to support areas that citizens deemed top priorities, such as neighborhood parks and youth programs, along with arts and cultural programming,” said Jay Sandine, Rockford Park District executive director. “Hard Rock Casino Rockford has also expressed an interest in supporting the expansion of Washington Park Community Center to incorporate a music production studio, support neighborhood youth programs, and enhance performance opportunities at the Sinnissippi Park Music Shell.”

Live at Levings, which started in 1986 from an idea by Elbert Jordan, is a talent showcase featuring a variety of musicians, singers, dancers, poets, and much more. Elbert coordinated the venue for 17 years until award-winning soul jazz saxophonist Harlan Jefferson became director of the Levings Talent Showcase.

It has been an opportunity for local aspiring artists to take their performance to the stage and develop their skills. It also provides cultural, educational, recreational, and leadership development experiences through the arts.

Domingos en el Parque was founded by Armando Cárdenas in 2002 and not only provides cultural entertainment for all ages in the Latino community, but also offers families a venue to experience their heritage in music and dance in an open air park setting.

Cárdenas retired after the 2019 season, but the venture continued with Rudy and Laura Ortiz at the helm from 2011 through 2014. With great success in past years, this popular event is now run by Antonio Ramirez Jr. and Delia A. Rodriguez, co-founders of United at Peace, Inc.