New Eccles Theater Aiming to Reinvigorate Downtown New Eccles Theater Aiming to Reinvigorate Downtown
New Eccles Theater Aiming to Reinvigorate Downtown

Salt Lake City—When the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Theater opens this October, it will be the realization of more than 50 years of scheming and dreaming by performing arts groups and municipal planners alike.

That half a century of thinking—plus eight years of planning and two years of building—will combine to make a state-of-the art performance space for large and small productions alike, and will be an economic boon to Downtown Salt Lake City both with the patrons it draws and the businesses who look to move into Utah because of it, say planners.

“It’s not just a big performance stage; it’s a larger performance stage and a smaller performance stage and a community gathering space,” said Kat Potter, senior advisor for the Salt Lake City Arts and Culture Program. “It’s a multifunction community space in the heart of downtown.”

The theater will share its lobby with 111 Main, 19 stories of which cantilever 50 feet over the theater beneath them, making the space a well-used one during the workdays and on weekends. Sean Morgan, director of planning for GTS Development, which is spearheading the theater project, said the extra utility was a smart move for the scarce space of Salt Lake’s downtown Main Street—especially when it comes to parking.

The theater and 111 Main have very different designs, but were designed to be complementary, Morgan said.

“We wanted the buildings to be unique and different, but we wanted them to be cohesive,” he said. “The two buildings had to be built, obviously, hand-in-glove.”

Space was a critical issue because of the density of that area of downtown, Morgan said. The theater features a glass front, to make the space seem open both from inside and outside, and the rear of the theater, facing Regent Street, has two retail spaces to make a dynamic building from either side. Productions can load their props, sets, costumes and other gear through a pad to the south, which has been designed to function as a public plaza all other times. In that way, the rear and side of the theater will fit into the larger redevelopment and update of the Regent Street area, Potter said.

Inside, the theater holds a 2,500-seat stage, as well as a smaller, 150-seat black box theater. The larger of the two venues, the Delta Performance Hall, is designed with curves and slopes, not straight angles, for maximum acoustic quality, and will feature multi-hued wall panels and small lights overhead to mimic a starlit Utah canyon. From one of the upper levels, during good weather, attendees can walk directly out onto a terrace overlooking Main Street. The terrace will also be accessible from two staircases in the lobby, and will have food and beverage options.

For year-round dining, the Encore Bistro at Eccles Theater will be open for breakfast and lunch, and for dinner on performance nights with a menu customized for each show.

The theater is designed by Cesar Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli, as well as the local architecture firm HKS Architects, and includes a broad array of energy efficient technology in an attempt to earn Net Zero status.

Funding from the theater is coming from a combination of private funds and new and existing municipal revenue streams, though no new taxes are being introduced to fund the project and no existing public arts funding is being diverted from the project.

Potter said the dual source of funding for the theater, to be run by the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts, which also operates facilities such as Abravanel Hall, the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and the Janet Quinny Lawson Capitol Theater, gives it a solid foundation at living up to the dream of it being a boon both culturally and economically.

“It’s a really great opportunity to have a cohesive operator of the arts,” she said. “We really feel like [the theater] is a public-private partnership.”