in the heart of historic uptown Columbus, RiverCenter for
the Performing Arts is the centerpiece of the city’s
new arts and entertainment district. Conceived as a vital
cultural hub, the center was designed by the multi-national
architectural firm Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer and Associates
to artistically enrich the Chattahoochee Valley region.
Its construction was funded in part by $86 million of the
over $100 million that was raised by the Columbus Challenge,
an unprecedented public-private fundraising effort that
also revitalized key local cultural venues. The remainder
of funding came from a $17-million state appropriation
and a $25-million matching pledge from the Bradley-Turner
A property of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the 245,000-square-foot
RiverCenter is a visually stunning blend of the past and the present, mixing
the brick and ironwork of the area’s historic buildings with a modern
multi-level glass and steel façade. Its spacious entrance is graced
by a tall glass “curtain” wall and a soaring staircase. A sense
of the building’s magnitude may be gained from contemplating some
statistics: a height of 120 feet (five stories), 200 miles of wiring, 150,000
feet of conduit, six million pounds of structural steel, one million masonry
blocks, 300,000 bricks, and 50 million pounds of concrete.
RiverCenter’s state-of-the-art facilities include the 2,000-seat
Bill Heard Theatre, the center’s main venue and home to the Columbus
Symphony Orchestra. Featuring orchestra, mezzanine and balcony seating,
the hall is designed to meet the complex technical needs of attractions
such as Broadway shows, symphonic concerts, dance performances, pop concerts,
lectures and conferences. From the ceiling large interwoven ribbons of
steel mesh contribute a sense of intimacy, while shaped balcony fascias
and custom light fixtures provide color, texture and warmth.
After a year of programming in its two smaller halls, RiverCenter officially
opened Bill Heard Theatre in April 2002. Already the theatre has hosted
a variety of world-renowned performers, including classical artists such
as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Jessie Norman; popular entertainers such
as Bill Cosby, David Copperfield and Wynonna; international ensembles such
as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Moscow Boys Choir and Cirque Éloize;
and national touring productions such as the Broadway shows Chicago, Miss
Saigon and Cats.
The center’s second largest performance space, Legacy Hall, has 430
seats and an elegant ambiance that includes orchestra and parterre levels
and a balcony that wraps entirely around the stage. Walls are covered in
a textured clay tile, and the balcony and parterre fascias are covered
in rich cherry wood. From the ceiling a series of light, colored wood acoustical
reflectors support striking copper chandeliers. Known for its perfect acoustics
and impressive Jordan Concert Organ, the hall is a popular venue with many
noted musicians. Already, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, violinist Robert
McDuffie, organist Olivier Latry and others have sung the hall’s
praises after performing on its stage.
Hall and the facility’s 150-seat, black-box Studio
Theater also provide rehearsal and performance space for
the Columbus State University Schwob School of Music. The
music school’s classrooms, studios, rehearsal rooms
and practice rooms also are located at RiverCenter.
RiverCenter fulfills its mission of partnering with local performing organizations
by serving as the home of the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus, the
professional chorus Cantus Columbus and the Columbus Ballet. It addresses
its outreach mission through its ArtReach program, offering area youth
of all socio-economic levels unprecedented opportunities to experience
and participate in the arts. Operating as a non-profit organization, the
center also supplies theatrical, volunteer, security and maintenance services
for its home organizations.
Fulfilling its mission of providing quality entertainment and promoting
the artistic enrichment of the Columbus area, RiverCenter for the Performing
Arts has become much more than a great performing arts center. It has become
a key player in the preservation of the social, economic, and civic vitality
of the region.