THIS TOWN can seem a bit off when the Tullahoma Wildcats aren’t taking the field at Wilkins Stadium on any given Friday night. It’s quiet and feels too still. We’ve all felt it, heard it, and possibly even complained about it. Odds are, a comment like, “there’s just nothing to do around here,” has slipped from your mouth or the mouth of a friend or neighbor. However, South Jackson Civic Center’s (SJCC) Executive Chairman Greg Gressel would beg to disagree regarding the lack of entertainment options in the area, especially following the addition of the civic center’s newest outdoor venue.
The civic center is now the proud host of a beautifully constructed 20-footby- 28-foot covered stage, deemed the Courtyard Stage. Hidden from the road, the stage can be found in a cozy nook behind the auditorium’s building. Gressel shared, “It’s kind of surrounded by our buildings, creating incredible natural acoustics. The stage is completely concert-lit and has a surrounding grass lawn. Right now with the bring-yourown- chair seating we have the capacity for about 200-250 people. During events we offer full concessions and a bar. In the afternoons and evenings it’s nice and shaded and just a really great venue option to have for the center.”
The Courtyard Stage has been a longtime dream. However, during the COVID shutdown the perfect opportunity came to a head: newfound funds and a more prominent need for an alternative venue. To get started, a gentleman named Pike Saunders sketched out a design for the stage. As soon as he finished, contractor RJ Hayes began the build. With the help of many volunteers from the community, the venue was complete and ready to showcase more talent, bringing more noise and fun to this town’s Friday nights.
South Jackson Civic Center christened the Courtyard Stage by hosting a four-part Friday Night Concert Series. On April 15, the series kicked off with a jazz quartet called Cookie Time Quartet. The quartet was followed by two versatile bands: The Different Duos, on April 29; and Salem Creek, on May 27. On June 10, the series ended with a Southern rock band, the Stan Allen Band. The civic center’s office administrator, Jeanna Wing, shared, “We averaged about 50 people a night. For something we had not done before, we were pleased with that turnout. It was a brand-new event at a brand-new venue.”
Regarding future events and series at the Courtyard Stage, Wing shared, “We’re going to continue to set up different series as we progress. We would like for this to be an annual thing we do, possibly each spring and fall. If anybody is interested in playing a show, reach out to us, and we’ll see what we can do.” Gressel added, “We plan to do more concerts on the stage as well as some live theater. We are even considering maybe doing some family karaoke nights during some summer months. Overall we’re just looking to see what we can do to use this extra venue. We’re excited to have more flexibility to provide more opportunities for the community and maybe bring some more income.” GN