Past and current elected officials tour the new Mid-Valley Performing Arts CenterMay 17, 2021 11:50AM ● By Carl Fauver
This 400-seat proscenium theater is the larger of two performance areas in the new Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center. (Taylorsville City)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
What began with a cold, winter announcement in December 2016 is now finally ready to become reality, in the summertime warmth 4 1/2 years later.
Taylorsville City and Salt Lake County each had different mayors when the partnership was originally announced for the construction of the $39 million, 70,000-square-foot Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center. After then-Mayors Ben McAdams and Larry Johnson made the joint announcement, more than two years were spent designing the state-of-the-art facility.
Another cold, outdoor ceremony followed—five days before Christmas 2018—when ground was formally broken on the new facility. Since then, lots of equipment, hardhats and dust.
COVID-19 delays pushed the planned December 2020 opening of the arts center back half a year. But now that its unveiling is finally imminent, various select groups are getting an early peek at it.
A Salt Lake County contingent recently led Taylorsville elected officials, past and present, on a tour of the virtually-completed Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center. Mayor Kristie Overson wanted it to be an all-inclusive celebration.
“I invited every current and former Taylorsville mayor and city council member to join the tour, because they all played a role, in some way or another, leading to this project being completed,” she said. “This will be such a wonderful addition to our community. I wanted them all to have the chance to see it.”
Among the attendees were three original city council members: Jim Dunnigan, Janice Auger (Rasmussen) and Keith Sorensen. They were elected back in the fall of 1995—from a massive pool of 68 city council candidates—months before the city officially incorporated, July 1, 1996.
“I was so pleased Mayor Overson invited all of us on the tour—and she was very thorough,” Auger said. “When I didn’t promptly respond to the initial invite, she followed up two or three days later with a personal phone call to make sure I had received it. I thought that was so nice.”
In those early days, when the Taylorsville offices were in a strip mall next to the former Reams store on 4700 South, Auger and Dunnigan led the group that found and purchased the site where city hall, and now the arts center, are located.
“Janice and I negotiated the price: $4 million for 20 acres,” Dunnigan said.
But, Auger adds, there was more to it than simply writing a check.
“[The city] had saved enough money, so we were able to make the purchase without financing it,” she said. “But before the Namba family would sell, we also had to agree to let their grandmother live out her days on the property. I knew the family personally, so that helped. They had run a produce farm and greenhouse here, where I had bought plants over the years. The grandma did remain on the property and continued to tend her personal garden, into her 90s.”
Auger also recalled, city hall was not the first structure Taylorsville officials had constructed on the property. Instead, it was what is now Unified Fire Authority Station 118, directly west of city hall.
Over the years, the city council has been approached by groups seeking to develop the property south of city hall where the arts center is now, and west of it, where the new Centennial Plaza is being created. But nothing appealed enough to elected officials until they successfully lobbied Salt Lake County to locate their planned facility there.
Former City Councilman Brad Christopherson also attended the performing arts center tour. He’s among those who’s pleased the city waited for the right opportunity.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful facility, not the same size but certainly the same quality as the (Salt Lake County-operated George S. and Dolores Dore) Eccles Theater, downtown,” he said. “I’ve been driving by to keep an eye on the construction. I could not be more thrilled. What a wonderful addition to the city.”
The Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center features one 400-seat theater, a 200-seat “studio” theater, plenty of rehearsal and dressing room space and something called the Centennial Room.
“One entire wall [in the Centennial Room] is mirrors, so practicing performers can see themselves,” current City Council Vice Chair Anna Barbieri said. “The room can also be used as a big conference room or to host a large dinner. I really love how versatile the entire building is. It will be huge for commerce.”
At press time, Salt Lake County officials had not yet announced the date for the ceremonial ribbon cutting, although city officials all believe it will be sometime later in May. It’s also not yet clear what will be the first production staged in either of the new theaters.
However, Taylorsville Arts Council members do know when their groups will first put the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center to use.
“The four-woman stage production ‘Winter Wonderettes’ will be performed Dec. 2–4 in the arts center small theater, called Studio 5400,” Arts Council Co-chair Howard Wilson said. “Then, the Taylorsville Arts Council’s first-ever performance in the large theater will be ‘Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ Jan. 31 through Feb. 5, 2022.”
Current City Councilman Ernest Burgess also attended the tour and said he can’t wait.
“I am just so impressed with how [the designers] have thought of everything,” he said. “Of course, the theaters are wonderful, but so are the practice rooms. The orchestra pit can be lowered several feet or remain up to enlarge the stage. The lighting and acoustics are great. It is just going to be a beautiful asset.”
Original city councilman and now Utah House Rep. Jim Dunnigan also mentioned two other things that please him.
“I love that the county will operate its box office full time, so people can buy tickets for events at any county facility inside the new arts center,” he said. “And the other thing I am excited about, I am 6-foot-5 and often don’t have enough leg room. So, I sat in one of the main theater seats to check it. My knees did not hit the seat in front of me! That was really nice.”
Taylorsville officials had hoped their Centennial Plaza, west of the new arts center, would also be completed for the new facility’s ribbon cutting. But now they say it will likely be the end of the summer before their $750,000 outdoor amphitheater and landscaping will be completed.
By then, presumably, members of the general public will have had their own opportunity to peek inside the new Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center and perhaps even to have attended a performance.