SALT LAKE CITY — "Our hope is that this wonderful anniversary is not an end but a galvanizing step to help us continue to grow."
Those were the words of Thierry Fischer, Utah Symphony music director, at the nationally renowned symphony's 75th anniversary celebration Wednesday.
The gathering of Salt Lake County leaders, art community members and longtime symphony supporters kicked off the Utah Symphony's historic season with a ribbon cutting to the newly designed plaza of Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple.
"Our 75th anniversary is about legacies and new beginnings, such as this beautiful new entranceway to the home of Utah Symphony," said Patricia A. Richards, interim president and CEO of the Utah Symphony.
"The Utah Symphony has always been very deeply tied to the fabric of Salt Lake City," Richards said. "In the early years, we performed in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle. Since 1979, Abravanel has been our home. This newly designed plaza continues to symbolically connect those two venues to each other."
Fischer said the new plaza and its green space will offer a comfortable gathering place for outdoor concerts and other community events.
"How could it be a better start to our great season than to integrate an outdoor space into the fantastic Abravanel Hall building, symbolizing creativity, innovation, always looking for beauty?" he said.
The plaza's opening, originally scheduled in May, was delayed three months after a handful of construction setbacks.
The 30-year-old fountain at the plaza presented unexpected challenges when workers found underground leakage, which soaked the soil. Workers had to take extra time to remove the soil, replace it and get test results back from engineers to ensure the ground was ready for new concrete.
But now, Phil Jordan, division director of Salt Lake County's Center for the Arts, said he and other county officials are pleased that the project could finish just in time for the 75th anniversary celebration.
"We think it turned out beautifully," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said. "It provides an appropriately grand entrance to the concert hall. It also doubles as a comfortable gathering spot for the public. The trees, benches and walkways welcome the public to sit and relax and enjoy this part of the city."
Chairs and cafe tables planned for the plaza were not in place Wednesday. Jordan said the public seating won't be set up until the first week of November because designers were still in the process of selecting the furniture.
Frances Darger, who played for the Utah Symphony for 69 years before retiring in 2012, said she loved the historic fountain but she was glad to see the plaza accessible to the public once again.
"I'm very happy to see a beautiful, clean, lovely new plaza," she said. "It's beautifully done."
Fischer said the symphony now faces a "motivating and challenging" season. For details about the upcoming performances, visit utahsymphony.org.