Tonight, the historic Pantages Theater reopens to the public with the performance of Hip Hop Nutcracker after having been closed for renovations since May. The hundred-year-old building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and was last restored in 1983, has been going through multiple stages of renovations since 2005.
This latest update to the theater includes aesthetic, acoustic, and safety improvements.
“We had one of the nation’s best historic preservation interior paint and plaster teams come in from New York state, and they conducted forensic studies of the interior and went through 22 layers of paint to get to a deep understanding of the different values of colors on the different surfaces,” said David Fischer, executive director of Tacoma Arts Live.
Fischer noted that the theater has also improved significantly in its acoustic capabilities, particularly for symphonic music, thanks to the removal of carpet under the seats and the rebuilding of the floor to be more resonant. The new seats in the theater — which are notably more comfortable while still maintaining an historic aesthetic — are made of wood, a material more resonant than metal.
As for safety, previous theatergoers will notice a big change to the landscape of the room: A wide center aisle has been added, which Fischer said is great for ADA access and also cuts emergency exit time in half.
“Overall, the cost of this phase of (the) project was about 8.5 million,” said Fischer. “Most of that paid for by the city of Tacoma, the state of Washington, private sector foundations, and private donors.” Phases preceding this one include improvements to the backstage, updates to the safety and security of the ceiling and walls, and a full restoration of the exterior of the building.
One of the finishing touches to this latest six-month project is the finalization of name plaques on the new seats. Community members can purchase a seat plaque for $1,000, on which they can memorialize anyone or anything, said Fischer. It is estimated that these seats will last for 25 to 30 years.
Looking forward, future improvements will focus on a remodel of downstairs restrooms and an expansion of the backstage area in the Pantages, as well as renovations and improvements to other theaters — Theater on the Square, Rialto Theater — in Tacoma’s historic theater district.