One January night, Dan Verner and his fiancee Lauren Clark looked around what once was a former auto parts store, at a vast space now filled with power tools, wood scraps, and scaffolding. The floor was covered in sawdust. Lots of sawdust.
This space soon will be christened the Spaceland Ballroom, a 300-person capacity music and arts venue and the newest addition to the “Space” family of eclectic venues in Hamden where indie bands entertain their fans.
Patriarch Steve Rodgers opened the original Space in an industrial park on Treadwell Street in 2003, an all-ages music venue that has built a reputation as one of the premier indie and punk venues in Connecticut.
Less than three years ago the Outer Space, a 21 and older bar with a roots music focus, opened just across the parking lot from the Space. When the lease on the auto parts warehouse adjacent to the Outer Space became available last summer, Rodgers admits he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to expand again.
“I’ve known that this area needs a larger venue for quite a while. Since Daniel Street closed down, there’s been a large void in New Haven County,” Rodgers said, referring to a Milford music venue that shuttered in early 2012. “So I just figured I’d take a risk and do it, because I think music and arts are really important,” he said with a smile, “so here I am, in debt.”
Booking and promotions manager Chris Merrow says the new ballroom will fill the crucial hole in the music scene left by Daniel Street’s closing. Many touring indie rock or punk bands are too popular for the 150 capacity Space, but could not draw enough for the much larger Toad’s Place in New Haven. Tours will often skip southern Connecticut for Providence or Northampton, Merrow said.
“We lose shows, because there’s no real 300 capacity rooms doing what we’re doing,” Merrow said. “We [The Space] have to turn down bands, or agents will let us do shows but have higher ticket prices. We want to bring music, and we want to support the Connecticut music scene.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Brian Marquis, a musician, national tour producer, and Litchfield County native. “I don’t know a lot of good mid-sized rooms in Connecticut,” said Marquis after a recent performance for the Vans Acoustic Basement Tour at the Space.
“It’s either the really big rooms, or lots of small bars. It’s great that there’s three different kinds of venues that are going to be happening in the same parking lot… it will be more enticing for bands that can draw that size crowd to come here and stop here. It’s a great go-between for New York and Boston.”
The Spaceland Ballroom is envisioned to host art shows, movie screenings, or, as Dan Verner is hoping, private receptions. “When I was thinking of venues to get married, I was remembering how the Outer Space patio looked in the spring, it looked gorgeous,” Verner said. He and Clark hope to host their wedding reception in the new ballroom.
Rather than taking out huge loans to fund the Spaceland Ballroom, Rodgers says he relied on local generosity to help make it a community project. A Kickstarter campaign reached its $10,000 goal in 32 days, and The Outer Space hosted several successful fundraisers including a craft beer tasting.
“The town’s been really supportive,” says Rodgers. “They want to see it, because Hamden gets this reputation like its the bedroom community of New Haven.”
While its first performances are being booked (Icelandic artist Valgeir Sigurdsson was recently booked for March 29), Rodgers and a core group of contractors are immersed in the final dash to finish the venue, from stage to kitchen.
“I want to put a really quality PA in here, and a nice lighting system so everything looks beautiful, but I also have a real quality grease trap,” Rodgers said jokingly. “I just want everybody to know.”
The Spaceland Ballroom grand opening show is March 15 with Mighty Purple. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance at http://www.theouterspace.net. For more information, or to contact the venue to donate to the Spaceland Ballroom, visit http://www.thespacect.com or http://www.theouterspace.net.