By Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Spence Eccles celebrated the unveiling of the George S. and Doré Eccles Theater’s logo and the booking of “The Lion King” in spring 2017 with his own song and dance Thursday.
Eccles, whose family foundation is the major contributor to the Broadway-style theater under construction in downtown Salt Lake City, broke into a verse of “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from “The Music Man” and started to tell a joke about a blind mule.
He stopped himself and laughed. “I got a little carried away there,” he mused.
While dignitaries unveiled the 2017 booking and gave the public its first glimpse of the new theater’s branding from the top of a nearby parking terrace, construction workers were hard at work on the 2,500-seat performance hall. The planned opening of the state-of-the-art theater is fall 2016.
“This is the biggest thing to hit downtown since the 2002 Winter Olympics. That’s why I wore my Olympic tie today,” Eccles said.
The theater at 151 S. Main was made possible with financial contributions and grants totaling “27 million Yankee dollars,” Eccles said.
The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation gifted $15 million to the new theater that is a joint venture between Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. The theater also has the support of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a $2 million grant from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation. Delta Air Lines also gave a donation that will be recognized through the theater’s main performance hall naming.
Eccles said his Uncle George and Aunt “Lolie” would be proud of the facility.
“I believe, once again, that the best is yet to come,” he said.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said Thursday’s announcement was another sign of progress in a city that is recognized nationally for job creation, innovation and livability.
“Eccles Theater is destined to become a cherished place in our community,” he said.
Aside from the arts and cultural opportunities of the new venue, construction of the theater is expected to employ hundreds of construction and craft employees this summer, add to the tax base and create hundreds of jobs.
“The Eccles Theater is poised to elevate an already thriving cultural scene and bring additional activity and vibrancy to our city in both new arts opportunities and economic enhancement,” Becker said.
“It is truly going to be another crown jewel in the arts and cultural offerings of Salt Lake County,” added Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
McAdams acknowledged the county’s long relationship with MagicSpace Entertainment, which for 25 years has brought “outstanding entertainment” to venues in Salt Lake County and will bring “The Lion King” to the Eccles Theater.
Based in Utah, the company has produced and presented national tours, Broadway shows and concerts worldwide for more than 30 years. Its latest offerings in Utah can be found at BroadwayInUtah.com.