By Melissa Fields, Park City Magazine
The invitation was very specific: sandals, shorts, skirts, and moon boots (no joke!) were among the prohibited attire. And though I’d worn what I thought was practical yet fashionable footwear for a construction site—flat riding boots—I was instructed to don a pair of Timberland-like work boots along with a hard hat and orange safety vest when I arrived, all of which I was glad to have as I walked out of the construction office and onto the teeming and very dusty site.
But among the throngs of construction workers and sea of scaffolding, the elegant form Salt Lake City’s George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater will ultimately take is very much apparent, and I have no doubt that this long awaited performance space will not only be an strong asset to Utah’s capitol city, but to the entire state.
The Eccles Theater’s performance schedule will include a range of genres and entertainment, from ballet to rock concerts. But this venue’s primary function is to host first-run touring Broadway productions—shows Utahns previously missed out on because of both the limited size of the Capitol Theatre and its status as home to the Ballet West and The Utah Opera.
The new, state-of-the-art theater will encompass a 2,500-seat performance hall, a 150 to 250 seat Black Box theater, rehearsal studio, the Encore Bistro restaurant, a six-story open lobby with floor to ceiling windows facing Main Street, an upper level outdoor terrace overlooking Main, and a galleria connecting Main to Regent Street. More than 80 artists were considered for public art installations within the building’s huge lobby area public space. The two chosen to display here are glass artist Paul Housberg, who designed a series of colored glass panels making up the railings on the second and third tiers, and Utah painter Laura Sharp Wilson, who created an inlay for the lobby’s terrazzo floor near the theater’s Main Street ticket office.
Another much less grand part of the Eccles Theater project—one that I think will become a popular downtown destination of its own—is Regent Street. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this narrow street (located mid-block on the east side of the Eccles Theater) was the nucleus of Salt Lake City’s bustling Chinatown, and known for its opium dens and gambling joints. Now, in tandem with construction of the theater and the 111 Main office building, Regent Street is undergoing a major redesign that includes a much more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere with the addition of retail and restaurants on both the theater side of the street and on the ground floor of the Regent Street Garage. On the theater side of the street, tables and chairs will be placed on the sidewalks, stylized lighting will be installed overhead, and the large white wall on the north side of the Walker Center Garage over a plaza off Regent Street will be used as a large projection screen.
The Eccles Theater Grand Opening is scheduled for October 20 – 23. The Salt Lake County Center for the Arts, the theater’s management entity, announced last spring that The Lion King would play the Eccles Theater in spring 2017. The remainder of the theater’s inaugural will be released on Thursday, March 3 on KSL Channel 5 at 6:30 p.m. (For details visit, artsaltlake.org.) I’ll be watching and keeping my fingers crossed for inclusion of what I think would be the ultimate Broadway show to see just steps from the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Book of Mormon.