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A bright red sign heralds the rejuvenation of the historic Pantages Theater

WATCH: What's going on at Tacoma's Pantages Theater?

Broadway Center Executive Director David J. Fischer talks about the work currently being done at Tacoma's historic Pantages Theater and the renovations that are still to come.
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Broadway Center Executive Director David J. Fischer talks about the work currently being done at Tacoma's historic Pantages Theater and the renovations that are still to come.

Scarlet. Crimson. Fuji apple red.

The historic sign outside the Pantages Theater is being repainted, harkening back to its 1918 origins.

“It was shocking in some ways to us,” said David Fischer, executive director of the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.

With the repainting of the downtown theater’s signature blade sign — wrapping up this week — the exterior phase of the $24.5 million restoration plan is coming to a close.

The current $2 million phase — which began at the end of May and is expected to end mid-August — is the first batch of changes among many at the Pantages.

So far, the theater has spent about $14 million on the restoration project since 2006, which is being paid for with $16.7 million in city, state and other government or private funding, plus $7.5 million from donors

Most changes have been subtle — including new catwalks and a fully mechanized orchestra pit lift — before the four-story sign was repainted last week.

In addition, any damaged white terra cotta was refurbished, historic wooden windows were rebuilt to create better insulation and the building’s seven-floor exterior was pressure-washed, said Scott Painter, director of operations at the Broadway Center.

This set of changes was the first done at the 98-year-old theater since 1983, Fischer said.

“Since then, really the only major capital improvement that had been made was the expansion of the lobby,” he said. “Now we are in the midst of a 10-year cycle of significant improvement.”

The exterior changes were designed to ensure historical accuracy, especially in restoring the colors of the blade sign, Fischer said.

“The sign colors are coming as directed by our historic preservation team, so we’re kind of excited,” he said.

Many of the changes will help preserve the theater for future generations, Painter said.

“I feel a big part of my job is to make sure that this building is standing 200 years from now,” he said.

Once the major changes are finished in August, Fischer said, small detail work might be needed before the official celebration of the refreshed exterior, set for late October.

The celebration also will kick off the “bigger set of projects that are coming,” he said.

Some of those changes, including new seating and lighting upgrades, will require the theater to close from May 2018 to October 2019.

“This building isn’t a piece of china that sits on grandma’s hutch,” Fischer said. “It’s a piece of working china that gets kicked and chipped and beat by 250,000 people a year, and it’s time to give it some love.”

Manola Secaira: 253-597-8876

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