Updating the King Center
There is not a more prominent gathering spot or showcase for the arts in Brevard County than The Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts at Eastern Florida State College. The 2,016-seat, 126,000-square-foot jewel has hosted 30 years of entertainment from the Marshall Tucker Band to the popular Theater for Youth series. And now it’s time to cool things down a bit. Literally.
EverythingBrevard spoke with Steve Janicki, the only executive director to ever oversee the King Center, about renovations and plans for the future. Janicki came on board a year before the building opened in 1988 and worked with Dr. King, then president of Brevard Community College.
“I said, ‘Dr. King, we need to make some changes if we're going to present the types of shows that I think the community wants to see,’” Janicki said.’” A bunch of change orders went in, we tweaked things around a bit, and the building has remained like that since it was opened.”
It isn’t unusual for a busy facility to be showing its age. The center brings in nearly 175,000 people a year. A few minor renovations happened over the years, like raising the roof of the stage house and some ceiling work to improve sight lines. But current renovations are the first major changes in about 20 years.
L3Harris Technologies stepped up with a $1 million contribution toward the $3.6 million Keeping the King Center Cool initiative to modernize the 31-year-old facility and improve the experience for its guests. Expected to be completed in 2019, the initiative will upgrade the exterior and interior design, streamline security procedures and replace the aging air conditioning system.
In recognition of the contribution, the Center will rename its 2,016-seat main theatre the L3Harris Technologies Theatre at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts.
What’s going on?
“It's time to freshen the place up a little bit,” Janicki said, starting with the air conditioning.
“We've been selling out so many shows, we have stepped up our game as far as programming is concerned, and we are attracting more audiences. We have had some of the most successful seasons that we've ever had in this building… but we need to treat our audiences better,” Janicki said, referencing the AC not maintaining cool temperatures.
The $1.7 million AC renovation began June 1, and and was slated for completion by the end of October. In early August, a $1.9 million main lobby renovation began including what the center calls “bold, dramatic architectural updates.”
The lobby will get new carpeting, tile, paint, signage, furniture, and security scanners. The Crown Club is getting new furniture and décor.
“It's going to look like a million bucks,” Janicki said.
One of the biggest visible changes going forward will be in security, which the center coordinates with Eastern Florida State College.
“When we first implemented the security measures, we got some pushback from a handful of patrons,” Janicki said. “But overall, 99.9% of the people thanked us. We just wanted to make sure our artists and our audiences are protected to the best of our ability.”
The lobby will feature a new bar area with nine bartenders. In the past, the center set up temporary tables in corners of the lobby, but B.R.P.H (the renovation’s designers) designed a lobby bar with a new point-of-sale system.
“We are really focusing on convenience for our patrons coming in and enhancing the concert experience or the arts experience when they come to the venue,” Janicki added.
Only the beginning
All that is phase one for King Center renovations. The next phase includes upgrades to the restrooms and various areas inside the theater. Janicki said eventually improvements will reach backstage, but focusing first has been the public spaces up front, “making sure that the air conditioning is good and everybody is comfortable.”
Bill and Kris Gear are among the many longtime dedicated Brevard residents who enjoy the arts at The King Center. Their company, Gear Buchanan Wealth Management, has been a sponsor and patron of the King Center for several years.
“We typically go in an hour or so before the show. We’ll have some food and a drink in the Crown Club, and it's just a place for us to gather with our friends before the show,” Bill Gear said.
“(The renovations are) just going to add to the experience we already enjoy,” Kris added, noting that updates wereit probably needed to “kick it up a notch” to compete with popular Orlando venues.
Both were quick to compliment Janicki.
“Steve's done a great job bringing in great entertainment, and trying to do what's best for the King Center and the public,” Kris said. “He's so approachable. On a business level, we sponsored the King Center corporately for five years. We're in the Crown Club, and Steve always walks up to us and says, ‘How are you? Thank you again for your patronage. We really appreciate everything you do for the King Center.’
“Sometimes you wonder if after you write that check if it's appreciated, but Steve knows our names and makes it a point to stop and make us feel like we're a little special.”
Funding for renovations is coming out of the King Center endowment, which is designated for facility improvements and programming. Support from the college and a $500,000 cultural facilities grant from Florida Division of Cultural Affairs go toward the air conditioning renovation.
In other words, money for upgrades is not being added to ticket prices.
And funds the center receives for programming helps keep ticket prices down — like the recent $43,000 grant from Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
“The renovations are not funded by that money, ever,” Janicki said.
Janicki praised B.R.P.H architects and contractors M.H Williams.
“They have done an amazing job considering one of the hurdles that we had to address was shutting down the air conditioning system while maintaining some type of programming during the summer. Lastly, I cannot say enough about our board and the renovation committee. They've done a tremendous job.”
The Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts
3865 N. Wickham Rd., Melbourne, FL 32935
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