SALT LAKE CITY — Following its grand opening Oct. 21, the brand new Eccles Theater will kick off its first season with enough concerts to please even the avid music lover.
Though the theater has possibly been most-anticipated as a way to attract more traveling Broadway shows to Salt Lake City, it doubles as a theater large enough — with 2,500 seats — to accommodate concerts for major musicians and other entertainers.
The Seattle acoustic band The Head and the Heart marked the first concert available to the public in the theater Nov. 2. The show opened with 17-year-old Declan McKenna from England, who performed with unpolished potential that’s sure to fully manifest itself a few years down the road.
Then the Head and the Heart came on stage, and the sold out crowd was a bit quiet when the band first started to play, possibly because of the venue. Lead singer Jonathan Russell commented on how the beautiful, formal venue was different from the cramped bars the band first played in when touring Salt Lake City.
But then the band played their lively number “Ghosts,” that had everyone on their feet and dancing, some audience members even rushing toward the stage.
The band members commented several times about the ceiling lights that looked like a sky full of stars before playing “Lost In My Mind,” which has a repeated refrain about “the stars up above.” They said they were honored be the opening concert in the new theater.
The Head and the Heart Concert will be followed quickly by the Goo Goo Dolls, performing music from their 11th album Nov. 4, with band SafetySuit opening. Next week Eccles Theater will see soul artist Amos Lee on Nov. 7 and Morrissey, previously lead singer for The Smiths, Nov. 12. Postmodern Jukebox will perform its jazzy pop music numbers Nov. 13.
For those interested in attending some of the upcoming concerts at the new local theater, here are some things to keep in mind.
Parking and transportation
The preferred parking location for the Eccles theater is the Regent Street garage, which has 1,000 stalls, according to the theater’s website, and costs $5 after 6 p.m. Visitors can access this garage between 100 and 200 South, between State and Main Street or via Orpheum Avenue from State Street. There are also 5,000 more stalls at the City Creek Center, a block north.
For those taking TRAX, the City Creek stop is across the street.
There are bike racks surround the theater on the east and west side of Main Street, Regent Street and 100 South. There are also two Green Bike locations, where the shareable bikes borrowed from other Salt Lake spots can be parked. One is on 100 South and Main, and another is on Main Street across the street from the theater.
Food and drink
There are plenty of restaurants close by in the downtown Salt Lake area, and Eccles Theater also has a full service bistro onsite called Encore. Run by Cuisine Unlimited, it provides three-course meals or pre-packaged wraps and sandwiches before performances.
During performances, there are several concession stands on each level with water bottles, soda and snacks that include cheese and hummus plates and macaroons. Patrons may eat and drink in the theater and every seat has a cup holder.
No outside food or beverage is allowed inside the theater.
There are restrooms on the lower level and the first and second tiers of the theater, and there are men’s and women’s restrooms on each side of the auditorium. There are, however, no restrooms on the main level, which anyone seated in the orchestra section should keep in mind.
Stephen Swisher, a developer with Garfield Traub Swisher, the firm that has worked to develop the theater and the surrounding area, said they got a lot of feedback from the public to make sure there were plenty of women’s restrooms compared to men’s.
“Right now, we’re about double the number of women’s than there are men’s,” he said in an interview with the Deseret News. “So there won’t be any lines at intermission.”
The bathrooms are large and white; the only downside is the paper towel holders were so well hidden underneath the ledge of the mirror that some guests simply couldn’t find them and gave up on drying their hands. Some signs would be a good addition.
View and acoustics
The theater is tall with three balconies, giving audience members a closer view of the stage than most arenas.
“It has a real intimate feel, and the views from all the balconies are just great seats, so it adds a very special feel to the space,” Swish said.
He said the space is designed with adjustable acoustics that will work for either acoustic or amplified performances.
“There won’t be another space that has this good of sound for a rock concert,” he said.
Buying tickets ahead of time could be made simpler for some by the convenient location of the box office on Main Street. The Eccles Theater lobby is connected to the new 111 Main office tower. The box office is open during regular business hours and sells tickets for all Salt Lake County Center for the Arts venues, including Abravanel Hall, the Eccles Theater, Rose Wagner and the Capitol Theatre.
Also, the other venues’ ticket offices sell tickets for events at all four locations.
Patrons of the Eccles Theater can also watch for upcoming community events on Regent Street, which is undergoing major renovations to serve as a mid-block connector between City Creek and Gallivan Plaza, according to the Eccles Theater website. There are plans to turn the area into a gathering space, with restaurants, shops and outdoor events.
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