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Center for the Arts grand opening pushed back; ribbon cutting still on

Fire destroys 405 theater seats at the European factory

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Center for the Arts will have to delay its grand opening ceremony from the original date of July 1 until later in the year. The plan is to begin holding some events in the new building starting in mid-July, but a major fire last week at a Belgian factory destroyed the 405 new chairs that were to go in the theater portion of the building.

“When we received word about the fire we couldn’t actually believe it. It was shocking,” said Center executive director Jenny Birnie. “It has a big impact on our summer plans, but we’ll adapt and make it all work. Things happen but that was a big one.”

New Center for the Arts development director and former board president Ed Schmidt said the custom chairs were done and actually on the loading dock ready to be shipped last Friday when the fire broke out at the factory near Brussels.

“We had received verification that the chairs and platforms were done so we sent the final payment,” he explained. “The fire took out the part of the factory where the chairs were located. The platforms that hold the chairs and allowed for the five different theater seating configurations were in another part of the factory and survived. We will get those soon. But the fabric was custom ordered and the chairs built exclusively for this facility. They’ll have to start over and so we don’t expect to see them until this fall.”

They both said the Belgian factory has insurance and are already beginning to reconstruct the chairs by building them at another factory.

In the meantime, the Center will rent stand-alone chairs to fill the gap for summer performances in the new theater space but the permanent chairs will be installed sometime before the winter season. It is then that an official “Grand Opening” will be held.

The Center will go ahead with the planned July 1 parade and festivities that will include a ribbon cutting, music and a community march down Elk Avenue to the new facility. “It will be a celebration of the new building and of all the local workers who helped build this facility,” said Birnie.

Schmidt admitted that if the seat issue hadn’t come up, the official opening would still likely have been put off a few weeks. He said while it may look like there is a lot of work yet to do—and there is—it is the normal final touches that get completed in the final flurry of activity. He did say that completing some final inspections has pushed back some of the work.

“Crockett [Farnell] and his Black Dragon crew has done a great job,” said Schmidt. “The huge atrium windows are going in now and that will be a big piece of getting the project completed. The town has been very helpful and the local subs are doing an amazing job. But like in any project this size there are some unexpected delays. Once the inspections have passed the crews can install the ceilings, for example, but they have to wait until they get the okay. The work won’t take that long but there are some things on hold. Crockett said he could get it done even if it takes crews working six ten-hour days instead of, say, four such days a week.”

Of the $18 million project, Birnie said about 70 percent has gone to local subcontractors and suppliers. She noted that $11.5 million has been spent locally.

“Take out the fire and overall, the project is going well,” Schmidt said. “There have been negligible change orders and Crockett has put together a beautiful building. Like any building project, the last minute will be a flurry of activity but it will get done. It looks more unfinished than it really is.”

“And it is on budget,” added Birnie.

The Crested Butte Music Festival will use both the old and the new buildings for performances this summer. While a grand opening won’t take place July 1, Birnie said in the big picture, the town will have an incredibly beautiful arts facility for many years.

As for the town’s Pirate Park that will be located near the new Center, Crested Butte Parks and Recreation director Janna Hansen said it also won’t be ready July 1. “We’re hoping for late July or early August,” she said.

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