SANDY — “Look at this place. Isn’t it sweet? Won’t it be great when construction is complete? Can you imagine a stage, a stage that does everything?”
Hale Centre Theatre cast member Amy Keeler sang those lyrics to the tune of “Part of Your World” from Disney's "The Little Mermaid" at a groundbreaking ceremony of the theater’s new home Wednesday.
The 130,000-square-foot theater at 9886 Monroe St. is slated to open in January 2017. The $65 million facility will feature two stages with a total of 1,350 seats.
The ceremony took place less than two months after Hale Centre Theatre leaders signed a lease agreement with Sandy.
Mark Dietlein, the theater’s president and CEO, said the 850-seat center stage theater will be built by Tait Towers-Stage Technologies, the same company behind some of the most technically advanced stages from across the world, including the Sochi 2014 Olympic Ceremonies, Las Vegas’ Cirque du Soleil, and world tours for the Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, U2 and Taylor Swift.
The 450-seat proscenium thrust stage will be reserved for smaller productions.
“We’re excited to build a facility that will match the talent of not only the theater’s actors, but also the incredible visionary designers and production teams,” Dietlein said.
Gemma Guy, vice president of Tait Towers-Stage Technologies, showed a video clip of the planned center stage and its mechanical intricacies to the audience of more than 150 at the ceremony.
Segments of the stage will be able to lift, lower, rotate and slide. Above the stage will be hoists and cranes that will be able to lift large pieces of scenery, props and actors.
Several audience members whispered in awe during Guy’s presentation.
“Tait has worked with many theater companies throughout the world, and this one is absolutely unique,” Guy said. “There is not another theater company in the entire world that has this amount of cutting-edge technology at its disposal to create the magical productions the Hale Centre Theatre is going to be able to perform.”
The theater’s current 613-seat facility in West Valley City has functioned at nearly 100 percent capacity since 2004, serving more than 270,000 patrons a year, Dietlein said.
Moving into a larger facility will enable the theater to increase performances from 400 to 500 in 2017 and eventually grow to more than 700 performances between the two stages, he said. Within five years, it's expected to serve 500,000 people each year.
"We've learned a great lesson in faith," Dietlein said. "Hale Centre Theatre has walked up to the edge of the cliff, and we've closed our eyes and jumped off, anticipating that we would build our wings on the way down. And that has happened in many ways."
He thanked Sandy officials for collaborating on the project, as well as donors who have collectively contributed about $15.7 million in cash and pledges to help the nonprofit theater build its new home.
The Sandy City Council approved a $42.7 million bond to finance the project, with an agreement from Hale Centre Theatre to pay back the city in full over time.
Mayor Tom Dolan called the theater a "huge piece of a big puzzle" the city has been working on: an 1,100-acre city center deemed The Cairns, where 20 million square feet of development is planned for a suburban downtown that will cater to residents and tourists.
"It's a great day for Sandy city and our residents to enjoy something that will last decades into the future," Dolan said.
West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle said while Hale Centre Theatre will be missed, the vacant space will open up new opportunities for the city. He said a local and national outreach is being conducted to find another theater group that will take over use of the old facility.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams also congratulated the city and theater for bringing the project together. He said the theater helps to preserve Salt Lake County's identity as a family-oriented place to live.
"We want to preserve that part of who we are," McAdams said. "We do it by investing in amenities like this one that foster and strengthen that sense of community, that tie to place, and that opportunity for families to connect."