September 17, 2013

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The Capitol Theatre Enters its Second Century with a Renovation, Addition

By Devin Felix

September 17, 2013

Salt Lake City—The Capitol Theatre is 100 years old this year, but Salt Lake County officials and arts fans expect it to have a long life ahead of it. About 100 politicians, philanthropists, ballet dancers, reporters, photographers and others gathered at the downtown theater Monday morning for a peek at a renovation project currently underway and to check out the site of a future ballet center that will be located next door. They also gathered to thank the donors whose contributions are making the project possible.

The event took place about 12 feet below street level, inside the excavated hole where the new ballet center will be built. Several people spoke, including Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Ballet West Creative Director Adam Sklute and the Rev. Rick Quinney Lawson, who represented the Janet Quinney Lawson Foundation. It concluded with Lawson “christening” the site by breaking a bottle of champagne.

“In addition to being a world-class facility for Ballet West, we believe it will become an important anchor in the Salt Lake cultural core,” said Ballet West Director Scott Altman.

Work on the Capitol Theatre — which, due to a donation, will be known as the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre — and the new Jessie Eccles Quinney Ballet Centre, which will be located next door, began in June. The theater is expected to be completed in time for this year’s annual performances of “The Nutcracker” in December. The new ballet center is scheduled for completion in October 2014. The two buildings will be connected.

Project manager Michael Vela, of HKS, described the project as “a dance between the old and new.” The ballet center will be brand new and will be built to modern standards, but it will also have to complement the 100-year-old Capitol Theatre as well. Designers kept that in mind as they planned the new building’s façade.

The project will serve as a boon for local business, said Phil Jordan, division director of the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts. Restaurants, stores and hotels in the area will benefit from an influx of people visiting downtown for ballet and opera performances, as well as traveling Broadway shows, Jordan said. The academy at the new ballet center will also allow Ballet West to train new dancers from a young age.

“Bringing to downtown additional cultural investment is directly related to the ability of local businesses to draw employees,” Jordan said.  

The renovation will include raising the floor of the stage by four inches, which designers say will increase sight lines for many seats in the house. It will also include renovation of the orchestra pit, intended to improve acoustics in the theater.  

Other planned Capitol Theatre improvements include:

  • Renovating the heating and air conditioning systems
  • Increasing the public space in the lobby
  • Adding a merchandise stand
  • Updating ticket offices
  • Renovating and reupholstering all theater seats
  • Adding new aisle lighting

The Jessie Eccles Quinney Ballet Centre will include five studios for professional dancers and academy programs, new offices, and new costume and wardrobe areas. It will also provide public areas, including restrooms and a concessions area for use during shows at the Capitol Theatre. It will also include reception and meeting spaces. 

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