Joycelyn Moore wasn't afraid to say what many of her West Valley City neighbors have been thinking for years.
"West Valley hasn't had a lot of culture," admitted Moore, one of the 500 or so theater patrons and well-wishers who turned out Thursday night for the grand opening of the new $8.2 million Hale Centre Theatre."I think this really adds to the community," she said.
Moore wasn't the only one giving rave reviews to West Valley's newest addition to the Salt Lake Valley cultural landscape.
Local residents who donned suits and gowns for the Hale Centre debut indicated they're impressed by the theater's artsy exterior design, posh interior and state-of-the-art technology.
"This is the touch of class that West Valley has needed for a long time," said another impressed resident, Lee Sproul. "It's great to have it here."
Her husband, Murry, wasn't arguing the point.
"It's incredible. . . . I'm really proud of this place," said Murry Sproul, who grew up in West Valley and has lived here 40 years. "It's in my hometown."
With an $8.2 million price tag, culture and civic pride doesn't come cheap.i
Funded by some $1.8 million-plus in donations and a $7 million revenue bond that will be retired by lease payments from the Hale family, the 41,900-square-foot facility is the first new theater to be built in the valley in 36 years.
It's also the next major step in West Valley City's ambitious plan to turn the area around 3200 South and Decker Lake Drive into a sports, culture and entertainment mecca anchored by the E Center.
"Overall, it's a good investment and a wonderful improvement to the city," said Brian Lang, a life-long West Valley resident. "Hopefully, everybody in the valley will come and benefit from this."
Moore and her husband, Keith, have been season ticket holders at the old Hale Family Theater venue in South Salt Lake. But art considerations aside, they agree the construction of the theater is financially sound.
"I think it's going to bring a lot of money into the community," added Joycelyn.
Pete Harman, the local entrepreneur who put Kentucky Fried Chicken into the vocabulary and tummies of most Americans, was the major donor on this project, and the stylish 560-seat theater-in-the-round now bears his name, Harman Hall.
The private contributions provided by Harman and other donors enabled the city to focus its $7 million on construction and the purchase of the land, said Ted Nguyen, the city's public communications director.
"The $1.8 million in donations went into enhancements such as lighting, the detailed paneling, seating and sound and all the little details needed to help make it a world-class theater," he added.
But West Valley resident Dan Cosney, who has acted in several Hale theater productions in the past, indicated the impact of the new facility on the community isn't something that can be measured in mere dollars.
"It's a charge to the system to know this is going to be here in West Valley," he said. "It's beautiful, state-of-the-art and so much bigger than we've been used to.
"This theater should do a great deal for people's attitudes about West Valley City and where it's going," added Cosney. "This is very exciting."