By Joe Southern
Approximately 7,000 people took a free peek behind the scenes Saturday at Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, the city’s new $84 million performing arts venue.
The City of Sugar Land and its management partner ACE SL, LLC, held an open house from noon to 4 p.m. to allow residents a chance to tour the venue, enjoy food and visit with vendors. Beginning Saturday, the theater will hold its grand opening events with two shows by comedian Jerry Seinfeld, followed Sunday with a concert by Don Henley. It was one of the few times that the public will get a look behind the stage and in the dressing rooms and other facilities behind the curtain.
Don Payne of Richmond brought his 9-year-old daughter Trinity to check out the new digs.
“I just came to see the new concert venue opening up just five minutes from where I live,” Payne said. “I’m impressed so far that we have a facility like this in Sugar Land that attracts big name entertainment and that we don’t have to go downtown (Houston) all the time.”
Trinity was enjoying making some arts and crafts.
“I love it,” she said, adding “but in there, it’s too loud.”
Camille and George Prat of Richmond were also impressed with the facility.
“I think it’s great. I’m excited to come to the shows,” Camille said.
“I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house,” added George.
Bill Hanley of Sugar Land came with his family to the event.
“Very nice, first class,” he said of the center. “I’ve driven by here the last year and wanted to see what it looks like from the inside. I’m hoping they steal concerts from The Woodlands. I’d like to not have to make that drive.”
Hanley’s wife, Kim, said she enjoyed getting her first look inside and also getting to see the dressing rooms and backstage areas.
“You don’t get to see behind the stage very often,” she said.
The event featured self-guided tours of the venue and children’s activities provided by organizations such as the Sugar Land Skeeters, the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center. The event will also included special performances by the School of Rock of Sugar Land and Cypress.
Located off of U.S. Highway 59 and University Boulevard, Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land is situated on a portion of 38.5 acres of city property. It is equipped to host a wide array of programming including national music and comedy artists, children and family entertainment, theatrically-staged productions and cultural and performing arts attractions. It will also be open to the community for local graduations and community theatre performances.
Designed for flexibility, the 200,000-square-foot venue incorporates innovative moveable walls that can expand and contract to create four different seating capacities that range from an intimate setting of 3,400 seats to a maximum of 6,400. One of the walls was contracted during the tour. The venue also features 14 luxury suites, corporate hospitality areas, and the latest sound, light and video technology. Other offerings include space to house up to 14 production trucks and buses, as well as 2,500 guest parking spaces.