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Arts center work to start next month

The $4.5-million project in Crystal River will include a performing arts theater that expands Playhouse 19's capacity.

Construction on a 500-seat community performing arts center and theater is scheduled to begin by late September, Playhouse 19 officials announced Friday.

The work on the $4.5-million building follows a lengthy fundraising campaign, said Judy Poplawski, Playhouse 19 executive director.

The 28,000-square-foot building will be across Rock Crusher Road from the Rock Crusher Canyon amphitheater on land donated to Playhouse 19 by Stan Olsen, owner of Rock Crusher Canyon. A groundbreaking ceremony at the site is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25.

Poplawski had planned for the performing arts center to be completed by the start of the upcoming season at Playhouse 19 in September, but she said the plans are about two months behind schedule.

"What will probably happen is that we'll do two shows at the old theater and switch over in January," she said.

The construction will be completed in three yearly phases, she said. The first phase will be the 500-seat performing arts center, followed in the second year by additions of classrooms for performing arts instruction and in the next year by a rehearsal hall/banquet room.

"I believe in this," Poplawski said Friday. "It's not just for a community theater; it's a performing arts center, like the one in Tampa, but just on a smaller scale."

Plans call for a theater capable of presenting plays and concerts. It will have a two-story lobby, which will include administrative offices, the box office and a courtyard.

Design plans also include a fly space, which is a tower above the stage. The fly space will allow sets, backdrops and curtains to be raised and lowered quickly to accommodate scene changes. The new theater's 500 seats will more than triple Playhouse 19's 135-seat capacity.

The theater will include a rehearsal hall that will double as a second stage. Set storage rooms, dressing rooms, a costume shop and an orchestra pit also are planned.

The planned performing arts center will complement entertainment amenities at Rock Crusher Canyon, although Rock Crusher Canyon is not affiliated with the arts center.

The canyon includes a large outdoor amphitheater, where major music festivals such as the Crystal River Jam are held, and the 20,000-square-foot Garden Pavilion, which hosts more intimate big band concerts.