By Walter Villa
It took five years of planning and dreaming … of hand-shaking and fund-raising.
It took $58 million dollars, seven different focus groups, two years of actual construction and limitless perseverance after an economic downturn tested their resolve.
But, after all that, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is once again … state of the art.
“I try to stop and have those moments to realize, ‘Wow, we are actually standing in this place,” says Broward Center President and CEO Kelley Shanley, on a tour of the facilities. “We’re kind of here, and it feels great.”
Shanley, who had served as executive vice president and general manager of the Broward Center since 1999 before becoming CEO in 2009, was a key part of the renovation plans that started in 2007. That was one year before the economy went south, adding to the degree of difficulty in getting this done.
The Broward Center was built in 1991, and, at first, the impetus for renovation wasn’t too “sexy,” Shanley says. The goal was to simply modernize the facility.
“[Our original sound and lighting was built] back when the fax machine was new technology,” Shanley says. “We had some catching up to do.”
But en route to updating, Shanley and his team upped the ante.
They decided to “increase our capacity to educate,” creating the Rose Miniaci Arts Education Center that features two classrooms, a coaching studio, advanced technology for distance learning and the JM Family Studio Theater for rehearsals, recitals and other performances.
The final phase of the renovation – the “sexy” part, if you will – was geared toward enhancing the theater-going experience for the patrons.
As the only stand-alone piece of new construction on the project, the Huizenga Pavilion includes the Mary N. Porter Riverview Ballroom on the second level, which is used for weddings, banquets and other special events; and Marti’s New River Bistro on the first level.
“For us, this building makes a gesture down to the river and activates the waterfront,” Shanley says.
In addition to new lighting and acoustic systems for the 2,700-seat Au-Rene Theater – the original mission of the renovation – the facility got new carpeting, paint and seats.
The “Club Level” and the “Intermezzo Lounge” were also added to the theater as places where patrons – for an additional fee – can enjoy creature comforts.
“We took cues from the stadium and arena industry,” Shanley says. “We added amenities that enhance the quality of the experience.”