Brian McClure had just settled into his seat at the Mesa Arts Center on Thursday when he was greeted by a falling object.
While watching a comedy routine, McClure was hit by a 1- by 2-foot wood panel that sent him to a Scottsdale hospital, where he received six stitches in his head and was released.
"It was the corner of the board that got me. It was like a missile," said McClure, a homebuilder from east Phoenix. "I never passed out, just a lot of blood."
McClure, speaking from his home Friday, said he was visiting the arts center for the first time to see stand-up comedian Bill Engvall. The incident happened in the 1,600-seat Ikeda Theater during an opening act for Engvall, a star of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and Blue Collar TV. The lights were turned on as people rushed to the injured McClure, who was cheered as he left the theater.
The $98 million Mesa Arts Center, which hosted its first concert just two months ago, responded Friday by replacing and tightening the screws on all the mezzanine and balcony level wood panels, which are used to improve sound quality, said Walter Morlock, a Mesa Arts Center spokesman. The panel that fell on McClure was held in place by eight screws, he said.
Morlock said the center will take the additional safety measure of installing channel straps on all panels to assure they stay in place.
The center’s largest theater was playing host to an Olivia Newton-John concert Friday night. The theater was closed to the public and media Friday during the investigation and repair.
Morlock said a patron sitting in the first row of the balcony section either kicked or put pressure on the rail in front of him while laughing during a joke, causing the panel to shake loose and fall from the balcony level to the mezzanine level and then hit McClure, who was seated in the elevated "dress circle" section of the orchestra level.
McClure said he was grateful it did not hit his wife, who was seated next to him, or the 10-year-old boy in front of him, or he thinks the result could have been a lot worse.
McClure said he doesn’t plan to sue the city, but will want Mesa to pay his medical bills, refund his tickets and perhaps give him free tickets to another event. McClure said the center employees, as well as the paramedics, all handled the situation well and called him Friday to check on him.
"They were all gentlemen, everyone was great," McClure said.
McClure said he was feeling fine Friday, but his doctor did warn him that he could feel symptoms for up to a year.
"I’m just trying to get the blood out of my hair right now," McClure said.
The 212,755-square-foot facility at the southeast corner of Main and Center streets includes four theaters, galleries, exhibition space, studios, classrooms and outdoor performance areas.
The center operated by Mesa was paid for with a voter-approved "quality-of-life" sales tax.