12/31/15 Columbus Dispatch- Made From Scratch (Larry Clark)
Valley Dale Ballroom, its doors closed for much of the year, is now ready for its next act.
The historical North Side event venue, which has hosted Frank Sinatra and B.B. King among many others, reopens Thursday — New Year’s Eve — after a year of turmoil, a change of management and a $1.25 million renovation.
The Valley Dale closed in February after a dispute between the owner, Arlington Co., and Martin Finta, who had managed the site for decades. Dozens of weddings and other events were left in the lurch. Promoters, brides and others complained that deposits had not been returned and that finding new venues on short notice was almost impossible.
The new manager of Valley Dale is local caterer Made From Scratch. The company’s president, Larry Clark, wants people to know that things have changed at Valley Dale.
“We have a clean slate,” Clark said.
Made From Scratch and the Arlington Co., together invested in the renovations, which included a new roof, remodeled bathrooms, a couple of new pillars in the main ballroom and lots of paint inside and out.
Eight new chandeliers have been installed in the soaring ballroom. Finta removed the former chandeliers and installed them in the Bosco Center on S. Sixth Street Downtown, which he now manages.
Clark had been looking for another venue for Made From Scratch — a place that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else locally — when he read that the Valley Dale had closed.
Valley Dale can accommodate more than 1,000 people for concerts and weddings. It also still has touches from its glory days as a big band dance hall — a pair of radio booths flanking the stage, CBS and NBC, from which national shows were broadcast, and a leather-front art deco bar on the mezzanine.
To help in restoring its former glory, Valley Dale’s 4-foot-tall disco ball was refurbished and rehung.
To reopen the ballroom, Clark and his team — Shelley Hart and Selena Vazquez — booked the Rick Brunetto Big Band.
Brunetto once played with the Bruno Masdea Big Dance Band and married Masdea’s daughter. Masdea’s group played a benefit show in 1980 that helped reopen the Valley Dale after a long decline in the 1970s.
Brunetto, also a veteran of the Bob Allen Trio, has played the Valley Dale too many times to count. It is his favorite venue and he says he’s glad it has a new lease on life.
“You feel the presence of all those people who have played here,” Brunetto said. “This place is spiritual.”
Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Tommy Dorsey and every major big band played shows at Valley Dale. Photos from Valley Dale’s heyday line the walls of the mezzanine.
Losing the Valley Dale to a wrecking ball, redevelopment or disrepair would have been a disservice to the history of a building tied to so many people and memories here, said Ed Lentz, executive director of the Columbus Landmark Foundation.
“If you have spent any significant amount of time in central Ohio, you’ve been to the Valley Dale at least once,” Lentz said. “It has a long history in popular culture in this region. Getting it rehabbed is great.”
Events are beginning to fill Valley Dale’s calendar, Vazquez said. People planning weddings and concerts have been reaching out.
“A whole new generation of people who will make memories here,” she said.