Project Manager Jon Miller demonstrated how effective the performance hall’s acoustics are even at this incomplete stage. As he led a tour group out from the theater’s highest balcony, he pointed out how the design dramatically muffled the construction noise, leaving the outside hall relatively quiet.
The center’s executive director, Ruth Waalkes, was part of the tour group. “What Ruth and the Center for the Arts have bought with the design is a world-class acoustical performance space,” Miller said.
The theater also includes two balconies, four tiers of box seats, two orchestra pit platforms that can be lowered and raised, and enough backstage space — and trapdoor space beneath the stage — to put on a Broadway-sized production.
Nor is that all there is to the Center for the Arts. There’s upstairs and downstairs art galleries by the box office, and a four-story, 3,000-square-foot structure nicknamed “The Cube” that will serve as a black box theater and a laboratory to test projects generated by the university’s new Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT for short).
And it’s all being built for more than $94 million in the 42,600-population town of Blacksburg, of whom only about 15,000 live there year-round. The center, at North Main and Turner streets, is on schedule to open in October 2013 with an annual budget of $5 million, making it the largest arts and cultural institution in the Roanoke and New River valleys.
Predicting how the center will fare is a challenge because there’s no precedent for an arts institution that large in the New River Valley.
“They are going to have to create a whole universe,” said Susan Mattingly, executive director of The Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg. “We’ve never had anything like this here in 24060.”