When the Higley Center for the Performing Arts was originally designed, it was seen more as a high school auditorium.
However, since it opened two years ago next to Higley High School, the district-owned center has been groomed into a performing arts center that hosts national events along with community theater and school events.
The center had four full-time employees hired in the last year to operate the facility at 4132 E. Pecos Road in Gilbert.
It has a new online ticketing service that started last week. Copperstar Repertory Company is now the resident theater company, and the Symphony of the Southwest, formerly the Mesa Symphony, will be doing four shows in the next year, said Bob Zucker, assistant manager and senior technical director.
"Starting the third week of October, we don't have an open date until after Christmas," Zucker said. "That's how busy we are."
A permanent Web site will debut in about three weeks. The center has also partnered with the Chandler Center for the Arts to move some shows to the Higley center while the Chandler center closes for a year in May to begin major renovations, Zucker said.
"If you don't include the Mesa Arts Center, the Higley Center for the Performing Arts is the second-largest performing arts center in the south East Valley," Zucker said. "We have a five-year plan to make the center self-supporting. Being a part of the school system, we can't lose money."
However, with all the events planned, the building's design does have some flaws. Construction is planned to begin in the summer of 2009 to fix what Zucker calls "light bleed" and "noise bleed."
Because of the open hallways that lead into the 1,220-seat concert hall on stage left and stage right, an event cannot occur the same time in the main theater as in the 186-seat little theater without noise and light problems, Zucker said.
Actors and musicians also need a way to get from backstage to the lobby without disturbing the audience or being seen, Zucker said.
To fix the problem, entryways on either side of the stage will be closed off.
The performing arts center sound abatement improvements are part of the $5.6 million master plan for Higley High School's renovations, which will include a new athletic building, parking lots and an amphitheater.
A $25,000 concert speaker system was also purchased and will be installed in January to upgrade the center's sound system. The new sound system is being paid for using money slated for building and maintenance issues, a portion of which was saved from renting out the center, Zucker said.
"We can't bring in national touring acts without a concert speaker system," Zucker said. "The original sound system was meant for speeches and for plays. This will turn us into a performing arts center that can host any national touring act."