Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle, England, provided inspiration for the Orlando festival.

Dr. Phillips Center’s Front Yard Festival to launch in December

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has secured $500,000 to launch a socially distanced outdoor live event series that is set to debut in early December on its Seneff Arts Plaza.

The funds come from Orlando’s Community Redevelopment Agency and Orange County. The Orlando City Council initially approved $250,000 for what’s being called the Front Yard Festival. The county subsequently matched that amount through a grant from United Arts of Central Florida, Dr. Phillips Center spokeswoman Lorri Shaban said.

United Arts is a nonprofit organization that provides millions of dollars annually to support the arts.

The schedule of ticketed and free events for the six-month festival will be announced next week, along with sponsorships and other details, Shaban said.

The outdoor space will be fenced off and guests, more than 2,000 of them, will be separated into more than 400 pods — elevated 5-foot by 7-foot platforms arranged in decreasing heights to preserve sight lines. Each pod can accommodate up to five people.

The idea was borrowed from an English venue, Virgin Money Unity Arena at Gosforth Park in Newcastle, which staged six weeks of events over the summer using similar platforms, Shaban said.

The plaza has been used for other outdoor festival events, including a memorial following the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

The venue is teaming with local restaurants and will also bring in food trucks to provide food and beverage options, Shaban said.

Shaban credited Dr. Phillips Center’s Kathy Ramsberger with coming up with the plan to borrow the festival idea from Virgin Money Unity Arena.

“We’ve got an extremely innovative president and CEO,” Shaban said. 

Ticket prices will vary “just like shows that are held inside,” Shaban said. “Our expectation is there will be some free programming, maybe a lunch series, and everything from family friendly affordable (to higher priced shows), depending on who is performing.”

Local officials hailed the idea as one that would return live programming and all of its ripple economic benefits to downtown Orlando.

“We’ve got great interest and support from private organizations,” Shaban said, noting that many businesses are keen to interact with the public in ways they have been unable to since March and that sponsorships are being made available at various levels.