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Performing Arts Center construction begins in the next week

The construction phase will begin next week on Auburn's new state of the art Performing Arts Center.

The Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center, which will sit on South College Street across from the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, will open its doors Aug. 22, 2019. Christopher Heacox, the executive director, hosted one of the final Critical Conversations talks of the fall semester at the Alumni Center on Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. 

The session was an information, conversation presentation about the workings behind the construction of the center and what faculty, alumni, community members and students can expect from the center.

"We will have steel in the ground in about a week," Heacox said. "The contract will be signed this week." 

The project will total at four years and it began two years ago with planning. Heacox was hired at Auburn toward the tail end of the design period. The funding for the center was portioned out of the billion-dollar University campaign. 

There is currently only one other performing arts center of this size in the state. Auburn's will be the second and Heacox said it will draw national and international acts. 

"We are very fortunate that John and Rosemary Brown who graduated from here in 1957 gave $57 million to the University," Heacox said.  

The plot for the Performing Arts Center stretches from South College Street to the greenhouses along Donahue Drive. Heacox said it was important to the designers and architects to mirror Jule Collins in an effort to better incorporate the idea of an arts district. There will be connectivity by crosswalks and sidewalks from the museum to the center. 

The design team met with members of the community, students and faculty in April 2016 to better establish what a performing arts center in Auburn should look like. It lasted four days and many designers came from all over the country. Wilson Butler Architects, a company with the familiar colors of orange and blue, were hired for the project. 

"They only design performing arts centers. That's all they do," Heacox said. 

Theater Projects and Akustiks were also chosen for the project. The project consists of a 12,000-seat flexible theater, a spacious lobby and an outdoor space. The theater will transform based on the entertainment. The lobby will include two areas where small performances and dinners can be held. 

Heacox said having functional space in the lobby was intentional. There are areas that can be converted into stages and areas blocked off for free shows or smaller gatherings. In the lobby, guests will find concessions and while the food choices have not been solidified, entertainment enjoyers will be able to purchase alcohol. 

Along with the physical center itself, there will be an outdoor amphitheater setting for events that will seat 2,000 people. There will be bathrooms outside near the green space at the event center. 

The exterior walls of the building are made of glass and replicate stage curtains, going in and out to create a ripple effect. Heacox said there will be a "front porch feel" in the upper levels, with large wood fans. 

Heacox guaranteed there would be more than enough parking for those who are attending shows. There is talk about adding more spaces than budgeted at the moment. A portion of the parking spaces will be food truck permissible for outdoor events and gatherings. 

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"There will be a good amount of benches and lighted area for sitting outside," Heacox said. 

The opening events will include a four-day celebration. There will be student programming on Aug. 22, a community performance on Aug. 23, an opening gala for donors on Aug. 24 and a family day celebration on Aug. 25. 

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