The Stage at Talleyrand is coming to Bellefonte. Community members share their hopes for the venue
Visitors to Talleyrand Park in Bellefonte can enjoy Spring Creek, playgrounds and open green space, and soon the park will also have a permanent stage for bands, orchestras and theater performances.
“A top-notch performance center, that’s what we’re gonna build,” said former Bellefonte mayor Tom Wilson, who is the leader of the project.
On a recent Tuesday, Wilson showed off the future site of the bandshell to a group of community members. He told them it will be a brand new, acoustically designed stage in the Talleyrand Park Annex, near the Match Factory.
“Centre County does not have an outdoor performance pavilion,” Wilson said. “This stage will be out spring, summer and fall. It’s a county project, really, but it just happens to be in Bellefonte.”
The Stage at Talleyrand project has already received a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Organizers estimate the total cost for the stage will be $2.5 million. They hope to break ground by October 2024.
“This will be open to all the county school districts to have their band concerts here [and] the Nittany Valley Symphony to have their summer concert series here,” Wilson said. “They’ll be doing movies in the park from the screen that’ll pull down from the roof. It’ll be here for generations.”
Standing on the train tracks at Talleyrand Park, Elizabeth Foulke shared her hopes for the stage.
“I would be open to hearing any kind of music and/or even if they wanted to do a play or something there,” Foulke said, “I think that’d be cool.”
Foulke just moved to Bellefonte to work as an assistant teaching professor of English at Penn State University Park. She suggested Shakespeare in the Park for the new venue.
“I think anytime there can be more space for that arts in a public space, then it helps the community,” Foulke said.
Wilson said The Stage at Talleyrand will improve public events in Talleyrand Park.
“We have concerts in the park every Sunday in June, July and August,” Wilson said. “It’s a free concert over at the gazebo, but we have bands that come in that cannot fit on the gazebo.”
Wilson said gazebos also are not “acoustically designed.”
"It’s difficult for the bands to hear themselves when they’re playing,” Wilson said.
In Wilson’s eyes, the close proximity of Penn State will help attract local talent. He hopes the stage will create a youth movement by attracting a variety of acts.
“This is gonna be open to anybody who wants to perform here. We’re gonna schedule things, but we’re also going to open it up to have people come in,” Wilson said. “We may do a battle of the bands [or] we may have a talent night to feature young talents who don’t have a venue to perform in.”
Across the park, John Fusco was working at a table beside the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce. He has a medical practice in Bellefonte.
He said adding the bandshell is just one step in a long process to improve the park.
“Talleyrand Park has been getting better and better,” Fusco said. “For example, all these chairs and tables were not here a year ago.
He said it’s “really appropriate” to add a bandshell.
Wilson said there are already plans in place about how to use the grant money. He said a $300,000 sinking fund will be used for maintenance costs, labor and possibly a part-time employee to run the project. However, those leading the project are still searching for the last $1.5 million to complete the stage.
“We are in the process right now of doing a major campaign — speaking with people and looking for donors,” Wilson said.
Niki Tourscher lives in Bellefonte. She is a Certified Park and Recreation Executive for the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society. Tourscher isn't a part of the Stage at Talleyrand project, but said she’s worked in the field of parks and recreation for more than 20 years.
“I’ve done a lot with planning of park facilities, and I’ve toured a lot of parks,” Tourscher said. “Even if you’re not someone who’s interested directly in music, it’s still going to have a positive impact on Bellefonte and the rest of Centre County.”
She thinks residents will appreciate the stage.
“Any enhancement you can make is going to bring additional people to the area, so it’ll benefit locals,” Tourscher said. “The economic impact of tourism that it can bring is also substantial.”
Although some community members in Bellefonte have expressed concerns about how Talleyrand Park will handle the influx of cars during major events, Wilson is not concerned.
“Parking is always a question,” he said. “We may have a little bit more traffic, but we’re gonna have the same traffic that we have when we have concerts over in the other side of the park, because most of this is just gonna be for local musicians.”
Wilson has one message for those who doubt the project’s viability.
“People will come. Build it and they will come.”