Leaders in the campaign to build the Long Center for the Performing Arts have decided to scale back the long-delayed project and build only two out of four theatres in an attempt to get it off the ground.
Long Center Changes
So long to the Long Center for the Performing Arts -- or at least the elaborate four-venue version designed by Skidmore Owings Merrill, unveiled to great fanfare two and a half years ago. In those still-heady days, the project had raised $58 million toward what was then expected to be an $89 million price tag for the renovation of Palmer Auditorium, and one could imagine another $31 million being donated to create a 2,400-seat concert hall, a 750-seat and a 250-seat theatre, plus a rehearsal hall, linked by a grand lobby that would transform the Great Green Turtle of Auditorium Shores into a jeweled palace for the city's cultural creations. Alas, in the 30 months since, the Long Center campaign has found itself crippled by the economic slump, leading to delays in the groundbreaking and to heightened concerns that the ballet, opera, and symphony would have no place to perform once Bass Concert Hall shuts down for 18 months of renovations in 2006. With only $8 million more added to the campaign coffers since February of 2001 and no sign of an imminent economic recovery that would help them close the gap on the amount needed to fulfill the original four-venue vision (at least $45 million, but possibly $60 million or more), Long Center leaders have opted to do what a lot of corporations have done in the tanked economy: downsize. Under the theory that half a loaf is better than none, they plan to build the 2,400-seat Dell Foundation Hall and the 250-seat Rollins Hall and leave the 750-seat Topfer Theatre and the rehearsal hall to be built later, if ever. Other plans for the space, including that spectacular lobby and a donor lounge, will be shelved, and much more of Palmer will be recycled than was originally planned. All this will theoretically reduce the cost of the project to $72 million, but considering that $17 million has been spent for those grand plans that will likely not be used, the center is still looking at $30 million to be raised before construction can begin. Completion is projected for 2007.