SANDY — Any Utahn driving north along I-15 in Sandy has likely already noticed construction for Hale Centre Theatre's new home is well underway, with towering cranes, mounds of dirt and gravel, and the beginnings of a structural skeleton.
The 130,000-square-foot theater with 1,350 seats was originally estimated to open in January next year at 9886 Monroe St. But Utahns will have to wait about five months longer, until June, before they can walk through the mega-theater's doors.
That's because construction crews had a little trouble with the Sandy site's high water table, according to Mark Dietlein, the theater’s president and CEO.
"With construction, it's very typical to have delays," Dietlein said. "So while it would have been nice to open it a little bit earlier, this was somewhat anticipated."
The project to move Hale Centre Theatre out of its current 613-seat facility in West Valley City broke ground last fall. The move will enable the theater to expand its seating capacity, which has been at nearly 100 percent since 2004. It's expected to increase the number of performances and eventually entertain 500,000 patrons a year, up from 270,000.
Dietlein said Utahns will have to wait a little longer than expected because crews have had to drive 215 pillar-like structures called piles into the ground in order to stabilize what will act as the foundation for the building so it doesn't shift due to the area's high water table.
He said most of the piles had to be driven deeper into the ground than what was originally anticipated, some drilling more than 100 feet below ground before finding stable resistance.
"So they would drive these 50-foot piles down and, finding they hadn't met the resistance, they had to take another 50-foot pile, weld it to the other one and get those welds inspected before continuing to drive down," he said. "Unfortunately, the process was very time consuming."
However, the project is still projected to stay within its $65 million budget, he added.
Now that the piles have been installed, Dietlein said contractors predict with a fair amount of certainty that the theater's first stage — the 450-seat "proscenium thrust" or "horseshoe" stage — will be open in June 2017. The larger, 850-seat center stage should be open in October of next year.
The center stage will be built by Tait Towers-Stage Technologies, the same company behind some of the most technically advanced stages from around the world, including the Sochi 2014 Olympic ceremonies and Las Vegas’ Cirque du Soleil.
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.
The beginnings of the center stage are already taking shape, Dietlein said, with crews having dug a 70-foot-deep hole where all the lift equipment will be stored. Crews have also begun pouring concrete, and within the next couple of months steel structures will begin rising out of the ground to form the 100-foot theater's skeleton.
"I feel like a kid at Christmas. To get to the point now where we're actually seeing it happen, oh my goodness. I can't tell you how exciting this is," Dietlein said, noting it's been a work in progress for the past seven years.
He said now that the underground work is mostly completed, crews are "very sure" about the new opening dates, and performers are now planning the Hale Centre Theatre's 17th season around those dates.
So, Dietlein said over the next couple of months, Utahns driving along I-15 can expect to see the new theater start to take shape.
"Along the freeway there, there are 250,000 cars that drive by a day that will be watching the progress of this building as it goes up," Dietlein said. "So I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people that will be curious to come see it when it's finished."
Patrons can track the progress of the construction at www.htc.org, with frequent updates featuring videos and photos.
"We're getting a lot of excitement," Dietlein said. "It's going to be wonderful to have it finished."
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