Coralville Center for the Performing Arts to open this summer

BY KATIE HEINE | JUNE 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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The stage is set for Coralville.

The city is just a few weeks away from completing a long-awaited arts facility after breaking ground in 2009.

The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St., is scheduled to open in late August, and it will serve as a venue for such events as plays, movies, and speeches.

“Exposure to the arts is crucial in creating the thinkers of tomorrow,” said Megan Flanagan, the managing director of the center.

Discussion of constructing a multiuse venue began among Coralville City Councilors more than 10 years ago.

Flanagan had previously managed a multi-theatre facility near Chicago, and she accepted the Coralville job in March. And though the facility is rather bare, Flanagan has stayed busy hiring staff and scheduling events.

The first full-fledged production will take place in mid-September with a performance of Hairspray by the City Circle Acting Company of Coralville.

“It’s fantastic, it really is,” said Josh Beadle, the City Circle ch-airman.

For the past decade, City Circle has performed just about everywhere. The company has put on shows in such places as the Englert and Oakdale, and it has even performed in a community swimming pool, Beadle said.

“We’ve been searching for a home for a while,” he said.

And in a few short months, members of City Circle will have a place to call their own.

Though City Circle will call the center home, many other local performance groups will use the space. And the versatile venue will also benefit local schools and businesses, Flanagan said.

“We went into the design process thinking of the space as a multiuse venue,” she said.

The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts is part of a larger development, Plaza on 5th, which will also contain residences and commercial outlets. An underground parking garage will hold 300 cars beneath the building.

Coralville City Councilor John Lundell said the mixed-use building is a “great example of how private and public sectors can work together and create something great.”

Total projected costs for the theater are about $3 million, and the city of Coralville received a $1.6 million Vision Iowa grant for the facility. The remaining funds, Flanagan said, were garnered through fundraising.

The theater will likely have a positive effect on the local economy, she said.

“Anytime you increase the cultural opportunities in an area, it increases the vitality of a community,” she said.

Drawing people in to celebrate the arts has a “ripple effect” on local businesses and restaurants, Flannagan said.

The below-street-level stage will boast numerous trap doors, a full-fly system for backdrops and set pieces, and an orchestra pit. Traditional theater seating will hold 482 people.

“It has a very intimate, close-up, and personal feel to it,” Beadle said.

A dedication celebration is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 26, which will honor donors and kick off the facility with several events, speeches, and productions, she said.

And Lundell revels in seeing a 10-year idea become reality.

“It’s one more tool in the tool box in having a community that citizens can be proud of,” he said.

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