More than five years of planning and construction went into The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, 361 Symphony Park Ave., a project many city officials, residents and president/CEO Myron Martin believed would be a catalyst in the revitalization of downtown.
Five months after opening, Martin believes The Smith Center has lived up to its expectations as this catalyst in ticket sales, Broadway season ticket subscriptions, the type of entertainment provided and boosts for nearby businesses.
"There's been a buzz about The Smith Center for a long time," Martin said. "World-class performing arts centers are known for laying the groundwork for creative people who want to be part of a downtown renaissance. I think it's been a boost, not only for Symphony Park but for the whole area of downtown."
June Johns, senior economic development specialist with the city, said The Smith Center had an instant influence on the area.
"It's had a huge, positive impact in the revitalization of downtown," Johns said. "It has also helped the image of Las Vegas, as most people don't view it as a cultural epicenter."
Since opening its doors March 10, The Smith Center has been home to various Broadway shows, such as "The Color Purple" and "Mary Poppins," cabaret jazz performances and musicians from classical and jazz backgrounds and everything in between.
Martin said The Smith Center has exceeded expectations in ticket sales and anticipates the trend to continue with this season's upcoming performances of "Wicked," the Nevada Ballet Theatre and outdoor events in Symphony Park.
Much of The Smith Center's initial success, Martin said, stems from the variety it offers in entertainment.
"The great thing about The Smith Center is there will always be something for everyone here," Martin said, "from orchestral music to modern dance, Broadway and cabaret. We've launched even more with the Audi Speaker Series where we bring in really interesting people for audiences to come down and hear them talk about what they love to do."
Martin said lecture series are just part of what people can expect come fall. Broadway productions such as "West Side Story, "Beauty and the Beast" and "Billy Elliot," among others, are on the bill through June 2013. One of the most notable aspects, Martin said, is seeing local performers take the stage.
"This whole notion of having local artists and performers doing their craft in Las Vegas, it's part of that energy downtown," Martin said. "People are making art and bringing it to downtown Las Vegas. I think it says something to the Las Vegas community, that we develop these institutions as indigenous. It's part of the development of a community's soul."
Performances from the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, Strip performers for Golden Rainbow's "Ribbon of Life" fundraiser and local artist Tim Bavington's Symphony Park sculpture are among the local aspects to which Martin is referring. On the other hand, international entertainers seek to perform in Reynolds Hall, something Martin said wasn't the case before The Smith Center opened.
"We're getting calls from artists, managers and agents throughout the world who didn't want to perform in Las Vegas before," Martin said. "I think it shows how Las Vegas is a cultured city, a world-class city. The transformation is already happening."
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-4686.