Quinn: $60 million for Center for Performing Arts an investment in WIU's future

An architect's rendering of the Center for Performing Arts. (Submitted Photo/WIU)
Posted: Apr. 23, 2014 4:16 pm Updated: May. 7, 2014 5:15 pm
An architect's rendering of the Center for Performing Arts. (Submitted Photo/WIU)
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

MACOMB, Ill. — A concept decades in the making started to become reality on Wednesday afternoon.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn told a packed house inside the Western Illinois University student union that he was releasing $60 million in capital investment funds so the university can build a Center for Performing Arts.

“I really feel that music and art and theatre are very, very important to stir our soul,” Quinn told the crowd. “It’s important in every part of Illinois to have places where people can go, especially our students and those who teach them, to really care on this tradition in Illinois of loving music, appreciating art and participating in theater.

“The Center for Performing Arts will increase Western’s educational offerings and provide Macomb with a state-of-the-art music, dance and theater production facility. This is an investment in the school’s future, and the hundreds of construction jobs it will create is an investment in the region’s economy.”

WIU President Emeritus Al Goldfarb said the concept for a performing arts center dates to the 1970s.

“The first thing people said to me when I arrived as president in 2002 was ‘We want a performing arts center,’ ” said Goldfarb, who attended Wednesday’s announcement. “To get the construction funds is phenomenal. I think it’s going to be transformative for the university and community.”

Plans call for the center to be a 130,000-square-foot, two-story facility that will be located at the southwestern corner of campus along Western Avenue. The center will support the academic mission and programs in the College of Fine Arts and Communication, and will include a 1,400-seat theatre auditorium with two balconies, a 250-seat stage and a 150-seat studio theatre.

There also will be dance, jazz and theatre rehearsal studios to facilitate the academic mission of the building, which bolsters numerous academic programs; dressing rooms adjacent to the theatres; a scenery/design workshop and a costume shop; a box office; administration offices; and a loading dock that will accommodate semis and buses for professional touring companies and orchestras.

The total price tag of the project is expected to be $71.8 milllion. Nearly $12 million has already been spent from Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now program over the years for engineering and other planning. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2015 with the center’s grand opening tentatively scheduled to take place sometime during the spring semester of 2018. The architect is Cannon Design of Chicago.

“This will be one of our largest projects in the state,” said Illinois Capital Development Board Director Jim Underwood, whose group will manage the project. “We have 146 projects currently in construction and have 186 projects in design and will be moving into construction. Those were all part of the Illinois Jobs Now capital bill. Without that passage, none of these projects would be going. This will be a very complex building.”

Current WIU President Jack Thomas has long been a proponent of the project.

“When the governor called me, I was almost in tears,” Thomas said. “I was on the train heading to Chicago and I started shouting. This is something that we have long been waiting for. We haven’t had a state-appropriated building since the late 1970s. It is finally coming to fruition, and we are just excited here at Western.”

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, commended Quinn for saying he was eager to start a capital program soon after Quinn took office in 2009.

“It was truly a personal honor to serve as a lead sponsor and as a lead negotiator of the 2009 capital bill that appropriated the funding for this long-awaited project,” Sullvian said. “The Center for Performing Arts will not only create short-term construction jobs, it will also further solidify WIU’s role as a cultural center for western Illinois and serve as an economic development engine.”

Goldfarb, who now lives in the Bloomington area, said he is eager to return for the grand opening.

“It’s going to mean the world for the community, and it’s going to mean the world to our students,” he said. “It will help our theatre students and make this the cultural center for West-Central Illinois. It will attract people from all over the region to come into Macomb. It’s going to be great for economic development.”

In 2011, the WIU Foundation announced that Tate Lindahl, a retired WIU administrator and Macomb resident, had arranged for a seven-figure bequest in his estate plans to assist in the maintenance of the center. In 2013, alumni Kenneth and Lorraine Epperson pledged a seven-figure gift for the center. The 5,000 square-foot iconic lobby will be named in their honor.


Western Illinois University announced Wednesday it has received funding from the state to complete the long-planned Center for Performing Arts. Here’s a look at the project’s progress through the years:

• December 2002 — Illinois Board of Higher Education recommends a $22.5 million appropriation for partial funding for the center for fiscal year 2004.

• February 2004 — IBHE recommends the first phase of construction funding for the center in the 2005 fiscal year budget.

• February 2006 ­— $4 million released for the initial architectural and engineering planning.

• September 2006 — The Capital Development Board and WIU select the design team for the center.

• March 2007 — Full funding for the construction of the center is in the 2008 fiscal year budget.

• August 2008 — Final design concept selected from among three proposed concepts.

• April 2009 — The center concept design development finalized; construction document phase begins.

• April 2011 — Ceremonial groundbreaking.

• November 2011 — The center design team presents design finishes and materials concepts to the public.

• September 2012 — LEED Silver Certification submitted for approval to the U.S. Green Building Council.

• April 23, 2014 — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced release of $60 million in funding for the center.

• Fall 2014 — Award contract.

• Late 2014/early 2015 — Begin construction.

• Spring 2018 — Facility grand opening.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated since its original posting.

An architect's rendering of the Center for Performing Arts. (Submitted Photo/WIU)


An architect's rendering of the Center for Performing Arts. (Submitted Photo/WIU)


Gov. Pat Quinn announces a $60 million investment in WIU's Center for Performing Arts at a press conference Wednesday in Macomb. (H-W Photo/Don O'Brien)


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