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Feb 2, 2012
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Entrepreneurs propose building unique StereoType concert venue in Altoona

By Michael Swanger

Architectural renderings of the proposed $40 million StereoType concert venue to be built in Altoona were created by Channing Swanson of HLKB Architectural in Des Moines.

Imagine seeing your favorite rock, country or hip-hop artist perform in one of six state-of-the-art-equipped concert settings that can seat 200 to 10,000 people and afterwards buying an audio or video recording of the concert online.

Two Des Moines entrepreneurs, Ryan Lebo and Pat Williams, want to make that dream a reality for music fans with their proposed $40 million, one-of-a-kind concert venue, StereoType, which they hope to open next year in Altoona. Lebo and Williams, co-owners of LW Holdings, plan to break ground on their project this summer at The Shoppes at Prairie Crossing, a super-regional open air lifestyle center owned by Heart of America Development Co. that will also include shops, restaurants, a bookstore and sporting goods retailer. It is located south of Bass Pro Shops, adjacent to Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino and Adventureland Amusement Park, both of which annually draw more than 3 million people.

“There isn’t another venue like it anywhere,” said Lebo, 34. “Our goal isn’t to compete with other venues in Des Moines, but to fill in the gap and offer something unique.”

StereoType will boast a 200-seat restaurant, 1,000-seat nightclub, 1,500-seat shell space, a 3,100-seat indoor music venue complete with stadium seating and skyboxes, a 1,500-seat rooftop nightclub and an outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate 10,000 people. The venue’s name, its owners say, is their way of debunking the notion that Iowa lacks quality entertainment.

“We’re going to have the best-trained staff and best equipment possible for bands to use at any of the venues they choose,” said Williams, 35, who works as an audio engineer for acts like Slipknot, Kei$ha and The Black Eyed Peas. “Ideally, we’d like to see bands book multiple nights to record live.”

Lebo first pitched the project five years ago to Des Moines and West Des Moines before reaching an agreement with Altoona city officials to build StereoType there. He says that Altoona’s established entertainment district is a “better fit” and that upon its completion StereoType will attract approximately 30,000 customers monthly and employ more than 80 people.

“Altoona has been great to work with. They like the idea of how many people we can bring to their community, and they’re used to having large-scale entertainment,” Lebo said.

A letter of support signed by Altoona’s leaders states that, “It is our intent to give assistance and utilize any available resources to ensure that this project will be built in our community,” adding, “We are in agreement with StereoType, that Iowa needs more affordable high quality entertainment. After reviewing their business plan and model, we feel they are more than capable of providing the Midwest with just that.”

Lebo and Williams hope to announce their investors soon.

“We don’t want to say their names yet, but we have a couple of very large investors who we are working with,” Lebo said. “People will be surprised when they find out who they are.”

John Shaw, Altoona’s development director, has been working with Lebo and Williams. He admits that it is an “ambitious plan by any stretch of the imagination,” but that it is “certainly feasible.”

“The city has done a lot of the groundwork on the development so it is ready to go and up to each project to move forward,” he said. “I’m excited about the entertainment dimension this project could bring to Altoona.”

The owners say they are excited about the prospect of national and local bands performing there and utilizing the venue’s high-tech recording and in-house distribution systems. Bands can either lease StereoType’s equipment to create their own recordings; buy recordings made by the venue; or partner with it and share the profits, in which StereoType would be the manufacturer, distributor and broadcaster.

“What we’re offering is the next logical step for bands,” said Williams. “We’re going to pay them a generous percentage, the kind the competition can’t provide.” CV

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