In Asheville, after years of discussion, planning and re-planning concerning the physical condition and function(s) of the Asheville Civic Center, and after the advent of an entirely separate organization — Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts — to spur planning, funding and construction of a separate new home for the performing arts, at least there is evidence from elsewhere in the state that a new performance center can still become a reality.
The city of Durham, N.C., opened its new Performing Arts Center in the central city on Sunday night with a concert by B.B. King, and celebrates a ribbon-cutting and open house tonight (Dec. 1). And for those in the Asheville area who have long questioned the potential cost for this type of construction, Durham’s 2,800-seat facility came with a $44 million price tag.
The News & Observer of Raleigh has photos and details of the Durham facility, including a feature that would likely cause wry faces from Asheville’s own Civic Center staff and patrons — to say nothing of performers who play here: The facility has a loading dock that will handle three semi-trailers at a time. “If you don’t have a loading dock that is easy to deal with,” architect Phil Szostak told the N & O, “it costs you so much because you have only so much time to get in and out — and then you start paying overtime.” For aesthetics to match such function, the DPAC has a glassed lobby and Jaume Plensa sculpture, “Bridge to the Sky,” that “shoots a vertical shaft of blue light just outside the glass.”
Meanwhile, back in Asheville, at the site of the only existing performing arts space for the masses, the Civic Center Commission meets on Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 4 p.m. in the Banquet Hall. The agenda includes a repairs and maintenance update, discussion of the arena’s ailing roof and plans to refurbish the Banquet Hall.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor