County official who championed locating the new Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center in Taylorsville retires
Aug 05, 2019 12:08PM
● By Carl Fauver
The Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center is seven months into construction now — still on schedule and on budget — with about twice that long still to go on the project. (Carl Fauver/City Journal)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
As construction of the $40 million Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center continues through these hot summer months — still on schedule and under budget — one of its key overseers has abandoned his post.
“Salt Lake County is genuinely excited about all the different entertainment groups that will make use of this wonderful new facility,” said former county Center for the Arts Division Director Phil Jordan. In fact, that was one of the last official comments Jordan offered while still in his job, saying it on his retirement day, while visiting the Taylorsville construction site.
The new building now under construction southeast of Taylorsville City Hall is not the fanciest and most elaborate arts facility Jordan has been involved in during his 14 years with the county. That distinction goes to the 2,468-seat, $119 million Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake. But he said the new Taylorsville site is also close to his heart also because it will serve so many people.
“Through years of research we have discovered, when it comes to the performing arts, Utah residents are doers,” Jordan, 66, said. “Sure, we enjoy attending performances as well. But there are so many groups that want to perform; we identified the need for more performing arts facilities throughout the valley.”
More than a decade ago, county leaders devised a long-range vision, calling for the construction of as many as five theaters throughout the valley, not counting the palatial Eccles Theater. The Taylorsville theater, still scheduled to open late next year, will be the second of those, behind Salt Lake’s Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
“Our 2008 cultural facilities master plan will be updated later this year, and we will be reviewing all of the recommendations that have been made since then,” said Cami Munk, the division’s communication manager. “At this point, we are not involved in property acquisition or taking any other specific steps toward the construction of additional facilities.”
As for the Taylorsville project, Center for the Arts Associate Division Director Jeffrey Gwilliam said all is well, though he admits his team will miss Jordan.
“Phil has been instrumental in developing all of the county arts facilities constructed over the past 15 years,” Gwilliam said. “It is a very large knowledge base that is leaving us.”
Gwilliam was not sure when or if Jordan’s position will be filled by the county.
As for the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center, Gwilliam said Mother Nature caused some springtime headaches but not enough to impact the final completion date.
“We were affected by the second-wettest spring in state history,” Gwilliam said. “Sure, it slowed our construction crews down, but we had weather delays built into the construction schedule, and we have still not utilized all of them.”
The only significant “surprise” the construction crews have unearthed, literally, was a long-abandoned diesel fuel tank.
“It was there from when the land was farm property,” Gwilliam said. “But it was relatively small and had no breaks or breeches in it. Construction crews were able to remove the tank without any problems.”
A crew of about 60 construction workers have been on the site each day this summer.
The departing Jordan takes many fond professional memories into retirement, going back to shortly after his 1976 graduation from Boston’s Emerson College.
“I studied to work in television and movies but soon learned I did not want to be in a dark room editing; I wanted to be interacting with people,” Jordan said. “At some point, someone asked me to load a truck full of equipment and drive it to the Boston Ballet Company. That led to me working there for 18 years, getting to know ballet from a mostly technical standpoint.”
Subsequent career stops had Jordan directing a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, operating the Soldier Hollow cross-country ski venue for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics and managing another Olympic venue for the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.
Along the way, Jordan also became a certified scuba diver and a cross-country ski instructor, all the while dragging his wife Susan along for the ride. The couple celebrated their 40th anniversary in June, the same month he retired.
Oh, and there were theater-related jobs in Canada, Mexico, London, Russia and elsewhere. Suffice to say, Phil has a few stories to share.
And he numbers the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center among his top career accomplishments.
“I will be back to look at it a few more times during construction and certainly I will be here for the ribbon-cutting,” Jordan said. “I am honored to have worked with the team that will be operating this center. It will serve the residents of Taylorsville, and several other surrounding communities, very well.”