GREENSBORO, N.C. -- I’m about to type a bold statement.
The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts is the most anticipated and significant major construction project in downtown Greensboro in our lifetimes.
There. I typed it. But after 35+ years covering news in this community, I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate statement.
After more than eight years of planning, this 108,290-square-foot, $93 million limestone and glass edifice is about to open. Construction should be completed by the end of February, if not sooner.
And in a little more than a month, the first program in the Tanger Center’s Kaplan Theatre (We think it’ll be Jay Leno at 7 p.m. on March 22.) will begin.
It’ll also mark another professional milestone for the man who’s probably done more over the last 20 years to entertain Greensboro than anyone. (Another bold, but accurate, statement.) In addition to running the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Matt Brown will be the managing director of the Tanger Center.
“I think it’s going to be a magnet not just for Greensboro,” he told me as the two of us donned hard hats and reflective vests for a recent tour of the place. “But I think for the entire Piedmont Triad Region.”
He and I walked in just like a ticket holder would.
The front doors take you into the box office, then an expansive lobby. (It’ll be called Phillips Hall. Just about every section of the building is named after a big donor.) There’s enough room in the lobby for major events. The Tanger Center already has a wedding booked to happen in Phillips Hall in May.
Two porcelain staircases take you up to the mezzanine, another gathering area that overlooks Phillips Hall.
Of course, I wanted to head right to the main “auditorium.” (You may not want to call it that. One of the Tanger Center’s early planners chided me for using that term years ago. “It’s a performing arts center,” he said.) But Brown wanted to show me something unique and large.
It’ll probably be the only time I’ll walk inside the Tanger Center’s lower floor ladies' room. But I won’t forget it. Brown calls it the largest women’s restroom in America.
“Forty-four individual accommodating stalls for all of our female guests to enjoy when they come to the Tanger Center,” Brown said. He also said this should cut down on long lines outside the ladies' room during intermission.
Add the stalls of an identical ladies' room on an upper floor along with the men's facilities, 138 people can use the restroom in the same building at the same time.
The first view of the Kaplan Theatre (the main venue) prompted me to say, “Wow!” I’m sure many others will have the same reaction.
At 3,000 seats, this is THE largest theatre venue in North Carolina and one of the largest in the country.
The views are good.
Brown and I went to one of the very back rows in the upper level or “loge.” The pitch of this area is enough to keep a person sitting in front of you from blocking your view. And you probably won’t need binoculars because you’re still close enough to the stage.
“You can look at our video boards (there’s one on each side of the stage) versus looking at the stage directly, but I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house, and I sincerely believe that,” Brown said.
There are two main sections in the lower level, the upper tier and orchestra. We sat in both. The pitch isn’t as great, but you should be able see well since each seat is positioned between the two seats in front of it. (In other words, you won’t be looking straight at the back of someone’s head.)
The Kaplan Theatre isn’t the only place you can be entertained.
There’s an outdoor terrace overlooking Lebauer Park where guests will be able to gather and enjoy beverages with a view during intermission.
The adjoining Lee-Wrangler Lounge, Koury Ballroom and Brady Services Suite (they can be separated by curtains) will be capable of hosting large pre-event gatherings.
But, as with any building like this, the most important things will happen on stage where artists will be able to emotionally connect with audiences in a large, but surprisingly intimate setting.
“We have the best state-of-the-art performing arts center in the country,” Brown said. “Feel pride about this facility.”
I have a feeling we will.
For more information on the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, including upcoming programs and ticket information, click here.