SANDY — Hale Centre Theatre is three weeks away from opening its first show in its new Jewel Box Theatre at the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre in Sandy, and representatives from the theater and the construction staff gave a sneak peek of the facilities Wednesday.
The 130,000-square-foot building, 9886 Monroe St., includes two stages, a 1,700-stall parking structure and outdoor plaza with a total price tag of more than $100 million.
The smaller, 467-seat proscenium thrust Jewel Box Theatre is set to open its doors Sept. 1 for a production of “Forever Plaid,” while the larger, 900-seat theater-in-the-round Centre Stage Theatre is slated to be completed in time for the Nov. 17 opening of “Aida.”
“It exceeds our expectations,” said Mark Dietlein, Hale Centre Theatre’s president and CEO. “It will allow us to create magic like we’ve never been able to do before.”
The theater itself cost $80 million, made possible by a $42.7 million bond by Sandy, which the theater is to pay back as part of a lease, with the additional funds coming from donations, according to theater officials. The groundbreaking on the facility took place almost two years ago on Sept. 16, 2015, and construction was initially scheduled to be completed in January, but a series of setbacks, including the site’s high water table, have delayed the full opening until November.
The new facility — which would tower 11 stories high if it were all above ground, according to Dietlein — includes improved stage capabilities as well as elements theater representatives hope will improve the patrons’ experience.
“This theater is by all standards a world-class venue,” Dietlein said.
Seating in the Centre Stage Theatre is contained to 10 rows, compared to nine rows at its current location in West Valley City, but the seats have 6 more inches of leg room and 6 inches of additional height on the risers to give more visibility from each seat. A 40-foot-long concession stand in the lobby will serve both the Centre Stage and Jewel Box theaters, and 32 women’s restroom stalls are included compared to the dozen or so at the West Valley theater.
Hearing loop technology, which allows patrons with cochlear implants and hearing aids to hear the production as the sound is projected directly to their hearing devices using magnetic fields, is also available in both theaters.
From a technological standpoint, the Centre Stage Theatre’s stage is designed by Tait Towers, a company with a portfolio that includes work on the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremonies and stage design for the House of Dancing Water in Macau, China, as well as for tours of big-name musicians such as U2, Elton John and Maroon 5. Hale Centre Theater's new stage is oval-shaped and has 11 different lifts, and the entire stage can be lowered into the pit as a slip stage door made of two 20-ton pieces comes to take its place so the show can continue uninterrupted.
“In designing this, we really tried to make this the most flexible space that we could possible think of,” said Kacey Udy, the theater’s set designer who has worked on 90 shows for the theater company.
Above the stage is a lift system — referred to as a bogie by theater representatives — that includes eight different winches and dozens of moving pieces that sense the proximity between objects and people being lifted by the system.
“We tout the technology but it’s all about the shows, it’s all about the storytelling, and it will enhance our ability to do that,” Dietlein said.
He said the theater is on track to sell 30,000 season ticket subscriptions for its first full season in the new facilities in 2018, and a projected 500,000 people per year are expected to attend shows at the theaters.
“Grandma (Ruth) Hale, who was the original founder, she and Nathan Hale would always say when asked the question, ‘Why do you do theater?’ they would respond by saying, ‘We do theater to give people an emotional bath,’” Dietlein said.
“And really, that’s what this is all about.”