PAXTON — The concerts they’ve scheduled have drawn hundreds of thousands of fans across three states.
Now Gibson City’s Scott Harden and Athens, Ill.’s Casey Blakeley will open their own downtown Paxton event center, along with co-owner Alan Meyer of Paxton, called The Cadillac.
And one of the first performers will be perhaps Paxton’s most famous resident — Gina Miles, who won NBC’s “The Voice” in the spring.
A concert by Miles was on many area residents’ wish lists for months — so much so that ticket demand for the first show, on Oct. 28, necessitated a second show being added to the venue the following day.
Miles is one of nine acts already booked for The Cadillac, named because the large facility, which encompasses about a third of a city block, formerly housed a Cadillac dealership.
Harden, a partner with Blakeley in Grandstand Concerts Inc., said a chance conversation led to booking Miles’ concerts.
Miles’ father “lives right across the street from (Meyer), and Alan and him got to talking about trying to bring Gina back,” Harden said.
A number of local and area businesses bought many of the tickets for Miles’ first show and will hand them out to customers.
“Then we started working with her manager, which is her Aunt Gretchen, and got another show on the books right away,” Harden said.
Miles has been in Los Angeles recording her first album for Universal Music Group. She has been performing in concert and recently was the opening act for Jewel in California.
The first act at The Cadillac — country music artist Chris Cagle — is scheduled a week from Friday, Sept. 29. Many of the acts are country-based, but there are some, like Hairbangers Ball, an ’80s tribute band that will perform Nov. 22, that are not.
Harden said the country music influence is so strong because so many of the acts Grandstand Concerts has booked for county fairs and festivals in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa are country-based.
“We’ve done 70-some shows this year” in the three states, Harden said.
A FORMER AUTO DEALERSHIPThere is little left to indicate The Cadillac building formerly housed a car dealership — and after that, a NAPA auto-parts store — other than a sign on an outer door that says “honk horn for entrance.”
“That’s going to disappear this week,” Harden said.
When they began cleaning out the building, they found the former owner’s original Cadillac dealership certificate and “some cool Caddy pics and memorabilia,” Harden said.
Trying to figure out what to call the venue, Blakeley said, ‘What about just naming it ‘The Cadillac?’”
“That’s kind of what we want to be known for,” Harden said. “We don’t want to be high end, but yet we want it to be a nice venue where people want to come and it’s a great environment.”
Grandstand Concerts will use the building for its headquarters.
Harden said he stumbled upon the building as he was touring Paxton looking for a place to house Grandstand’s offices.
“I drove past that building,” Harden said. “It was massive.”
They knew Meyer well because he started downtown Paxton’s Swine ’N Dine festival. The building was owned by the Shields family that owns auto dealerships in Paxton and Rantoul.
“We got the key on Friday and owned it on Saturday,” Harden said.
The venue won’t only house concerts and offices.
There will be gaming rooms in the front. Two main rooms will be available for rental spaces for birthday and graduation parties and baby showers. The entire building could be available for weddings.
“We have a full green room in the back. A fashion show will be held there.
“The green room has three rooms off of it — one a laundry room, one a shower room and one a bathroom. There are full mirrors, a full wet bar,” Harden said, noting it would be ideal to host a wedding.
Harden said he and Blakeley learned from holding events what they liked and didn’t like at venues.
“We kind of combined them all together and made it exactly what we wanted. The venue will have its own in-house PA and lighting.”
Concert space will be a combination of standing room and seating, depending on the act.
Crews are working against the clock to get the building as close to ready as possible.
Painting was finished Tuesday, and they finished hanging many of the light fixtures and exit signs. The first round of alcohol was ordered Tuesday morning, and carpeting has been laid.