GOOD SHOW

Major $3 million renovation steals the show at Austin's largest theater

Major $3 million renovation steals show at Austin's largest theater

Bass Concert Hall reno rendering
The upgrades will include replacing the theater's original balcony seats. Rendering courtesy of Pfluger Architects
Bass Concert Hall before reno
The "before" shot: The theater's balcony seats date back to 1981. UT Austin
Bass Concert Hall reno rendering
Bass Concert Hall before reno

Given its historic nature and the fact that it had the highest ticket sales in 2019 of any Austin theater, it would be difficult for any locale to upstage Bass Concert Hall — except maybe the legendary venue itself.

Austin’s largest performing arts venue, Bass Concert Hall is undergoing a $3 million renovation that will bring the 40-year-old theater into the 21st century. The privately funded makeover follows several recent renovations, one in 2009 that expanded the venue’s lobby space and improved the building’s front façade, and one in 2013 that involved replacing orchestra-level seats.

The new renovations will focus on improving the safety and experience of theater-goers, according to Texas Performing Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, which operates Bass Concert Hall. Renovations are scheduled to be completed by May, just in time to host graduate-recognition ceremonies for UT’s class of 2021.

As part of the new changes, the 261,517-square-foot theater will get upgrades to its aisle lighting so patrons can more easily navigate among the venue’s more than 2,900 seats, and the lobbies and auditorium will be spruced up with new carpet.

Significant renovations at Bass Concert Hall include:

  • Upgrades to the theater’s seats and balcony sightlines. The original 1,241 balcony seats, dating back to 1981, will be recycled and replaced, and the balcony’s side sections will be rebuilt to improve theater-goers’ sightlines to the stage. Seating rows in those sections that previously faced the proscenium walls will be updated to curve toward the stage, providing a full stage view from all balcony seats. Additionally, TPA notes, “Accessibility and sightlines for performance-goers who use wheelchairs and their companions will be especially improved.”
  • The audio/visual components will be upgraded to expand artists’ and designers’ capabilities. That includes relocating the house sound mixing spot and adding a new audio/video infrastructure to support recording and streaming.
  • The lobby will undergo a “creative reconfiguration” that will allow for more circulation space and help reduce crowding.

And considering that in the immediate pre-pandemic year Bass Concert Hall welcomed 285,809 theater attendees, attention was also given to the venue’s ventilation system, which has been upgraded to provide better air filtration throughout the concert hall.

“Our resilience during this devastating time for the performing arts will come from acting on opportunities to come back better than before,” says Bob Bursey, executive director of Texas Performing Arts and a Tony Award-winning producer who was appointed to the position in January 2020. “This major renovation takes full advantage of the silver lining the pandemic has provided and sets the tone for our ambitions going forward.”