Located 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 Foundation.
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.
Legacy 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.