The cranes and scaffolding have come down. The beep of construction trucks in reverse, of tires rumbling over gravel and dirt, has quieted.
Trees have been planted, grass has been laid and the shows are all lined up.
The Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center is almost ready for business, and on Thursday, Aug. 22, they will open the doors to the public for their opening festival. But it’s not just the University that is benefiting from the addition of a large performing arts center.
“The world-class performances and cultural opportunities will be a tremendous draw for the campus and local communities,” said Auburn University Interim President, and namesake for the center, Jay Gogue in a statement to The Plainsman. “The Center will positively impact our economy and serve as another attractive community benefit for business and industry looking to invest in east central Alabama. Beyond that, Susie and I can’t wait to see the next Octavia Spencer getting her career started at Auburn.”
The city has invested $1.5 million in the construction of the facility, with an additional $50,000 each year for the next three years allocated for the center to provide funding for programming, said City Manager Jim Buston.
Roadways around the center were also renovated. Medians with greenery were added to College Street in the area between the center and the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. Sidewalks are also planned for the area to connect the center to downtown Auburn, Buston said.
In honor of the city’s donations, part of the outdoor portion of the venue was named the City of Auburn Lawn and Porch.
The center is now another amenity the city has to offer its residents; it’s expected to have a large economic impact on Auburn and surrounding areas.
“When the Jule Collins Smith Art Museum was constructed, we saw a significant impact on that with our industries and what they are looking for in quality of life in a city,” Buston said.
City officials expect the same from the Gogue Center because of what the center adds to the community. It just gives people another reason to want to live in Auburn, said Mayor Ron Anders.
“I believe this is one of the most significant additions to Auburn in our history,” Anders said. “It’s something we’ve never had and it’s going to provide a resource of entertainment that we’ve never had.”
A big impact for Anders is how children in the community will use the center. He said the center will provide children the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the performing arts.
The center will also play host to many community events, as residents are able to rent the center for their personal events like weddings and parties.
Important city functions, both new and old, will also take place at the center. The first “state of the city” talk will be held at the Gogue Center, Anders said.
“I believe it will be a perfect setting for a lot of those activities,” Anders said. “The city has made a significant investment [in the Gogue Center.]”
Whether it’s community events or performances the center puts on, center officials expect guests will fill theaters both inside and out.
For the upcoming performance season, the center has sold tickets to residents of 17 states and sold out the inaugural festival, according to Executive Director of the Gogue Center Christopher Heacox.
While the numbers won’t be clear until after the performance season is well underway, both Heacox and members of Auburn Opelika Tourism expect to see the center’s impacts throughout the community.
“By bringing all of these individuals here, we’re going to have a tremendous economic impact on our community,” Heacox said. “With people staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, shopping at local establishments.
In order to put on those performances and maintain the facility, the center has hired a number of local full- and part-time employees — including University students.
The performing arts in Auburn will also take a significant upswing as national performing tours and world-renowned artists take the stage. The theater is designed to handle larger performances in terms of cast and sets.
“We’ve been able to attract some of the best performers in the world to come to the Gogue Center,” Heacox said. “It won’t just be this year. It’ll be year after year.”
Auburn residents have bought in to the center as well. Many residents have spoken positively of the center and mentioned to Buston, Anders and Heacox that they are excited for the center to open.
Robin Bridges, the vice president of Auburn Opelika Tourism, has worked alongside the Gogue Center staff to attract out-of-town guests to the center, but also build local excitement.
“There’s nothing like this anywhere close by,” Bridges said. “It’s going to be a wonderful opportunity for us locally to have, but the impact level of the performances they’re bringing to the Gogue Center is world-class level.”
World-class has often been used to describe the Gogue Center. From its lush outdoor landscaping and its tall stature visible around the community, the Gogue Center is already drawing a crowd — and it can only go up from there.
“I hope it will continue to grow,” Bridges said. “As the name and what they offer become more known and established. We expect that it will only continue to grow.”