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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.