Smith Center Issues an Invite

Current tours of the Smith Center are conducted
in this building on W. Charleston Blvd.
Photo by Diane Taylor

On March 10, 2012, my husband will be celebrating an important birthday. The news in the local papers that day will not be saluting a great guy, however. The front page surely will be shouting about the grand opening of the $245 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Yes, the more than 2000 workers building the new Las Vegas cultural center have made great progress. I’m told the opening date of March 10, 2012 is firm. We locals have been bombarded with billboard ads, radio spots (at least on KNPR radio) and other news asking us to buy our tickets early because a world-class performing arts center in the new Symphony Park area is on its way.

Construction of the Smith Center itself is scheduled for completion next March. This photo was taken October 22nd
of the west face of the building featuring the parking structure.
Photo by Diane Taylor

So I get a call asking would I like a “tour” of the Smith Center. I wasn’t sure how I got on a call list, but of course, I’d love a tour! When I make an appointment and get my emailed directions, I find that the tour is not one where a group of us don hardhats and see the facility. The “tour” is actually a one-on-one visit to the Smith Center’s executive offices/ box office building at 241 W. Charleston Blvd. In spite of my own inabilities to find my way around town, I finally found said building.

Tours of the Smith Center executive offices include
a look at this model of the finished building.
Photo by Diane Taylor

I am met by an attractive blonde named Lara Kolberg who proceeds to lead me around the expansive executive offices/showcase lobby. She explains the facilities and programs planned for Smith Center. I’m particularly impressed by the ongoing arts education programs already being provided to local students and teachers and the fact that the building’s art deco interior was influenced by art deco elements used on our own Hoover Dam.

Everything looks quite wonderful until Koblerg mentions that the Smith Center parking structure accommodates 350 cars. What? Reynolds Hall, the Smith Center hall for the big musicals, seats 2050 people. Are they expecting six or seven people to a car?

Don’t worry, she tells me, the “city” (one of the Smith Center’s most important partners) has guaranteed plenty of paved parking will be available nearby. And, she adds, valet parking will also be available.

Photos on this wall feature the Smith Center's
educational efforts with children.
Photo by Diane Taylor

I reacted to the parking “thing” because that great guy of mine is no longer a teenager and doesn’t really relish long valet lines or long walks from parking to a front door. And even if there is “nearby” parking, I see that if people are particularly large donors to the Smith Center, they get VIP parking which I assume is “nearby”. And valet parking? It better be “nearby” as well…which may leave not-so-much “nearby” parking for the rest of us. (Shuttles to the front door would be a good idea, I offered. “We’re working on it,” said Kolberg.) I’ve already bought tickets to three performances next year and I’ll of course want to see resident performer Clint Holmes in the jazz cabaret, so my fingers are crossed.

We continue the tour. Everything on display in this lobby area is beautiful and first rate – no used furniture or peeling paint. The building models are museum quality. We even visit a mockup of a theater box, the use of which one can lease for lots and lots of money.

This cutaway shows the large Reynolds Hall
at left seating 2050 people.
Photo by Diane Taylor

And the far hallway? The walls are lined with perfect color pictures of the Smith Center founders – the folks who give the really big money. You know the pictures we see on Facebook? These are not those. These are large professional color photos and every person or couple looks flawless and gorgeous. While I applaud the generosity of so many successful Las Vegans and the work of the Smith Center staff to secure the money and rights to make this building a reality, I also thought of the Las Vegas valley today and its other needs: jobs, education and first-rate medical facilities.

The still-under-construction entrance area to the Smith Center is highlighted by the building's tall bell tower at left. Even the building itself will be musical.
Photo by Diane Taylor

During the tour, I was not asked for more money, though when I looked closely, Kohlberg’s title did talk about “education gifts and grants”. As I left, I was given a beautiful marketing folder with Smith Center information, photos of the building, a video, a color newsletter printed on very thick paper and a page describing “campaign benefits” for donors. I am told that the sale of season tickets for the series of Broadway shows at the Smith Center is far ahead of projections. So maybe, yes, the Smith Center will be a rousing success despite my concerns.

Like City Center, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts was an idea hatched during the boom years. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts amid a recession? We shall see.


5 responses on “Smith Center Issues an Invite

  1. I still think it’s odd that architecture chosen has produced a building that already looks old — before a single performance has been produced. The line-up of shows looks extraordinary and it will be interesting to see how this newest entertainment venue performs.


  2. Here’s an interesting perspective… (This came to me second hand, and so I apologize if the quote is not exact… although I believe it is at least 99% accurate.) Roger Thomas was interviewed this week on the Vegas Gang podcast and was talking about his work as the lead designer for Steve Wynn….

    “…You cannot make anyone believe that they are in a different place or a different time by replicating architecture, I think we all know where we are and I think we all know what time it is. Creating a much better sense of right now is what our job is. Creating a dramatic, mysterious, humorous, fetchingly comfortable and really attractive and glamorous sense of ourselves and the time we’re spending right at this very moment — that is what we are doing (at the Wynn properties)…”

    And replicating a music center on the scale of a Lincoln Center and plunking it down in Las Vegas, just doesn’t seem like a wise or strategic decision. Las Vegas is already a pretty special place for entertainment. On the other hand, the Smith Center will provide a new home venue for the Las Vegas Ballet and Orchestra and that will be a good thing.

  3. I have seen the Smith Center from a distance. Hope it is a success and agree with you on the parking. When you go to a play or concert at UNLV parking is close. Hope they can do something on the parking situation as I would not go based on your observation. Interesting article.

  4. Separated at birth? As I watched the Smith Center take shape, I had the odd feeling that I’d seen it before. Recently, I remembered why: Compare this photo of Monrovia High School in California: with the photo of the Smith Center above.

    I’m disappointed that the new structure is so similar to older buildings. It didn’t have to be as idiosyncratic as the Lou Ruvo Center, and it didn’t have to be a pyramid or a pirate ship. It just would have been nice if it reflected the creative, ground-breaking personality of Las Vegas instead of an aging high school in Southern California. (Yes, the tie-in with the dam is sweetly nostalgic, but you don’t “get it” unless you’re told.)

    A parking garage for 350 cars!? I’m as worried as you are, Diane. If parking at the Smith Center does not equal or exceed the convenience of parking on the Strip, it’s a major problem.

    Having said all this, I still hope the new center is a huge success.

  5. Well, I posted a note about your article when it came out, but it isn’t here. So, let me say again: very impressive “welcome” center – from both our observations, but a bit “over the top.” I really hope this is successful and brings some much needed culture to Las Vegas, but ticket prices and parking could be major issues.

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