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Exclusive preview of Eccles Arts Center as it nears completion

KUTV gets an exclusive look at new Eccles Arts Center as it nears completion (Photo: Courtesy Eccles Arts Center)

(KUTV) If you spend any amount of time in downtown Salt Lake, you are used to the sounds of construction on Main Street by now. It seems like it has been an eternity since the 111 Center started to go up, and the tear down and rebuild started for the new Arts Center.

With Spring in the air, there is also light at the end of the tunnel for those waiting for the grand opening of the new George S. and Dolores Eccles Theater. The state of the arts building that will house a 2,500 seat Delta performance hall, an intimate black box theater (which is actually a regal purple) lots of event an rehearsal space, balconies, a lobby that merges with main street and more.

The new arts center has been a project that has shared every moment of its conception and birth with the neighboring high rise.


"This was a public-private project. We built the public theater in conjunction with a private office tower." said Stephen Swisher, a developer with Garfield Traub, Swisher. "There wasn't enough room on the site for both of them to sit side-by-side, so the theater snugs up against the edge of the office tower and the office tower extends over top the theater at the fifth floor and goes on up to its 25 floors of height."

"There are two projects that were designed together and built together by two different architects, two different construction companies, but they are working together, because they could not build them apart." In fact, the high rise is cantilevered out over top of the 5 story performing arts center. The portion that suspends over the arts center literally hangs from the top of the structure without pillars reaching to the ground level. The lobbies will be made of glass and move seamlessly from one building to another.

The entire project, along with the redevelopment of Regent street, which sits directly behind the new buildings and will be the main entrance for anyone using the parking garage, will also be done in time for the grand opening October 22.

The public will be invited into the project for tours and a taste of the arts.

But for now, KUTV's exclusive, behind-the-scenes TV footage will have to do the trick.

Swisher says he's "been on this project for seven years." Seeing everything come into place is more than a dream come true.

There is a literal beat with the rhythmic sounds of construction inside the arts center. More than 300 people alone are on the project daily, and will be through at least August when move in is scheduled to begin.

"We felt like we gave the city heart surgery, because we tore a bunch of stuff out to put this here."


Swisher understands that the public might be getting restless after so long but says "we hope this will be the heart and re-activation of downtown."

Right now you can't see anything from the street, with large construction barriers in every direction. But come October, "all of a sudden we will take that fence down and it will be for all to see."

Alan Rindlisbacher with Layton construction likens the wait to the preparation needed for a show opening.

"There is a whole lot that goes into it before the show opens and the curtains finally part and the show goes on, that's kind of where we are."

The stage is massive at 10,223 square feet; the ceiling high above the stage is a work of art in and of itself, with a star studded ceiling that glitters like the night sky in Southern Utah. The curved walls are reminiscent of Utah's famous rock formations and the striations of color.

The lobby is looking the most complete as scaffolding comes down.

"You build the spaces, finish them from the top down."

The ceiling in the lobby has wood planking that compliments the brick from the neighboring, historic Deseret News building and its brown brick. The lighting is a magnificent art piece in and of itself, with orbs of light strewn through the lobby.

Swisher points to the stairs flanking either side of the lobby saying they'll be open with a glass art installment, planned so that the theater will be Salt Lake's place "to see and be seen."

The glass doors that run the length of the theater building lobby are made of glass and will fold away, opening the lobby to Main Street. Lunch hours will have performances and the new café will be open.

The Encore Bistro in the theater lobby will have coffee and treats for breakfast, a full lunch menu and dinner on performance nights.

Swisher says everything in the building has a plan, and the doors will be open 24 hours a day to "extend the activation later into the night so the town doesn't close down early and everyone goes home."


The stage that will be home to Broadway shows touring the country will be viewed perfectly from the audience. There will be no obstructed views with not a single pillar in the building. In fact, developers used 3D animation to make sure every seat had a great view of the action. There will never be an interruption as the heat or cooling system comes on either. There is a hole in the floor between every other seat, where air will quietly and slowly enter the room without notice.

The entire theater was built on a six-foot slab of cement that will keep rattling from the nearby Trax line out of the building.

The project is not a cheap one, with a price tag of $119 million. It will create 115 permanent jobs once the theater opens, but will keep 1,600 construction workers in business until the building is complete. The theater owned jointly by Salt Lake City and County is expected to bring in $9 million in direct and indirect spending and pull in $1 million in new annual property-tax revenue.

The first Broadway show opens November 15 with "The Carole King Musical." "Kinky Boots," "Matilda the Musical," "Cinderella," "The Book Of Mormon Musical," "Mamma Mia," "The Lion King," and "Dirty Dancing" will follow.

Follow Heidi Hatch on Twitter @tvheidihatch for breaking news, updates and more.

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