The long-awaited Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at last has an official opening date.
The ribbon-cutting on the downtown Orlando theater complex will be Nov. 6, with an opening gala the following night, center president Kathy Ramsberger confirmed Monday. The celebration will last several days and include a community open house and free performances, she said.
"It's fantastic, it's nice to be able to say publicly," Ramsberger said. "We can all be focused on the countdown."
There's still plenty of work ahead on the $514 million center, which started rising at Orange Avenue and South Street in 2011, Ramsberger acknowledged. An estimated $37 million is still needed to complete the center's three venues; only two will open in the fall.
AEG Live, a leading entertainment producer and promoter, has been hired to oversee the opening events.
The entertainment lineup could be revealed next month, Ramsberger said, though some details already have been settled: The gala will include a dinner for donors, and one of the free performances will be a concert on the plaza. Local groups, such as the Orlando Ballet and Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, will be invited to participate, she said.
The debut production in the center's main hall, the Walt Disney Theater, will take place the night of the gala.
"It could be anything from a single act to a variety show," Ramsberger said.
Shortly after the opening, Orlando's touring Broadway series will begin performances in the 2,700-seat Disney hall. Center officials have announced the musical "Newsies" will be part of the Broadway lineup. The complete schedule of the center's programs should be announced in March or April, Ramsberger said.
The 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater also will open in the fall. A 1,700-seat acoustic hall, which will house performances by the ballet and orchestra, was split from the project in 2009 during the economic downturn. Construction bids for the final theater will be reviewed this spring, Ramsberger said, and the center could be complete by 2018.
Construction now is focused on exterior brickwork and the center's distinctive canopy roof. Workers have been removing temporary supports, so the cantilever roof can stand on its own.
Offices in the center will open in late spring, Ramsberger said. Staff members will move from their current location, the "Round Building" that faces the site, to test-drive the new building. The Round Building will be torn down before the center opens.
"We'll be living in the center for a while," Ramsberger said. "We'll be testing things, making sure everything's ready for opening."
The staff also will remain committed to finding that last $37 million, she said. Of the $477 million in startup funding secured since 2006, $97 million has come from private donations; $202 million, including the center's land, from the city; $163 million from the Orange County tourist development tax; and $15 million from the state.
One of the planned fundraisers will let donors name a seat in the center's theaters, Ramsberger said.
"We have one year," Ramsberger said. "There's a lot of resources and energy being spent on that area."
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