Mitch Berman watched seats being torn out of the Century II Concert Hall Thursday, confident new ones would be ready by the time the Wichita Symphony strikes its first chords of the fall.
“They’ll get it done,” said Berman, executive director of the symphony. “They have to.”
The Symphony has nowhere else to go for its first concert in the newly refurbished hall in October.
It’s not only the new season but the premiere concert for Wichita’s new conductor, Daniel Hege.
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“There’s really no other venue that would be appropriate for us,” Berman said. “But I have confidence. It’s up to the contractors and construction workers now.”
Berman saw work begin on the $2.3æmillion project after the Norah Jones concert Tuesday night.
The seats had fallen into disrepair in recent years. They were uncomfortable. Some didn’t work, Berman said.
“They will be a little higher and the cushions will definitely be more comfortable,” said John D’Angelo, manager of the Arts and Cultural Division for the city of Wichita.
Minor changes in the seat configuration shouldn’t be noticeable, D’Angelo said. That mainly is being tweaked to improve seating for audience members with disabilities.
The hall will also get new paint, carpet and curtains. D’Angelo said the reddish-brown color scheme, including samples of the materials, is on display at the hall.
The project also includes a new dimmer for the house lights.
“It’s not something a lot of patrons may notice, but it will definitely improve the experience, when the show is over and those house lights come up,” D’Angelo said. “There’s a whole system that accomplishes that.”
The City Council approved the renovations in March and let the public help pick the new seats at an event in April.
“The committee ended up choosing the same seats that most of the public preferred,” said Angela Cato, Arts and Cultural marketing director.
Now the race begins to finish the project.
Berman said the Symphony needs the hall by Oct. 11 to begin rehearsals for the first performance with the new conductor the following Saturday.
“We will meet his needs,” D’Angelo said. “Everything is on order and the contracts are signed.”
The Concert Hall is a 2,200-seat theater, home to the Wichita Symphony, Music Theatre of Wichita and Wichita Grand Opera.
Last year, more than 195,000 people attended shows in the hall.