KANSAS CITY, Mo.—After more than 15 years of planning and construction, the dream of Muriel Kauffman is about to see its curtain rise as the massive Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens on Friday night.
The grand lobby of the $326 million facility includes a breathtaking panoramic view of the Liberty Memorial, but it's the two performance halls - Helzberg Hall and the Muriel Kauffman Theater - that officials hope will redefine Kansas City's image in the arts world.
The acoustics were designed by reknowned Japanese acoustic expert Yashu Toyota.
"The shape of the room and the material is very very important," said Toyota.
The building itself was designed by one of the world's most famous architects, Moshe Safdie of Israel.
"A glass and cable tent is not something that has been done many times. The lightness of the structure, the acoustic separation all require the highest craftsmanship of construction, and people used to say 'Don't try all of that out in the Midwest, they'll never achieve it'," said Safdie.
The Muriel Kauffman Theater, named for the late wife of Kansas City Royals founder and pharmaceutical magnate Ewing Kauffman, seats 1,800 people and will host musicals, plays, ballet and opera performances. In front of every seat, a mini-TV screen will translate whatever language the opera is sung in.
Helzberg Hall, with 1,600 seats, is a more intimate music venue, with every seat no more than 100 feet from the stage.
Performing arts center benefactor Julia Kauffman, who donated more than $100 million to the center, says that she is ready for the facility to shine.
"I'm delighted and thrilled that it turned out okay, the roof isn't leaking, everything's working, the moving parts are all going well, that's a thrill and the budget's in good shape," said Kauffman. "I think it'll improve our image a lot, but I don't think people really think it's a cow town, those in the know."
The Kauffman Center has already booked 260 shows for its first year.