Renovation coming along at Grass Valley’s The Center for the Arts |

Renovation coming along at Grass Valley’s The Center for the Arts

Know & Go

For more information, visit, stop by the Center for the Arts temporary box office at 988 Plaza Drive in Grass Valley (next to Margaritas Restaurant), or call 530-274-8384.

It might seem to the casual observer that not much is going on right now inside the empty shell of The Center for the Arts in downtown Grass Valley.

But appearances are deceptive, says those associated with the multi-million-dollar renovation of the former auto dealership turned performing arts center.

On a recent drizzly day, Executive Director Amber Jo Manuel provided a tour of the ongoing work on the building with Project Manager Diane McIntire, Director of Facilities and Operations Dave Spellman, as well as Tru-Line Builders President Daniel Swartzendruber and project manager Kevin Jamison.

“The community is very curious about the work being done,” Manuel said.

When completed, the venue will feature a much larger stage and theater, as well as a new bar and new art gallery. The renovation is slated to be done by this autumn, said Manuel, who is planning a complete fall season with music, theater and dance performances.

“Everyone’s aware of how important the timeline is,” she said.

One positive of the renovation so far is that there have been remarkably few unpleasant surprises as work got underway — other than a mine air shaft.

“We showed up one morning and found a big hole (in the ground),” Swartzendruber said. “But it was a simple fix.”

The wet winter has delayed pouring the concrete that will allow the contractors to install the pre-cast wall panels for the expanded theater.

“The weather definitely held up some stuff,” Swartzendruber said. “We’ve gotten quite a bit done on the foundation, the rebar is in. We’re just waiting for a break in the weather.”

But work continues daily on infrastructure work such as trenching for electrical and plumbing for a much-needed expansion of the restrooms, as well as the installation of a new ramp in the front to make the box office accessible to those with physical disabilities.

Before, wheelchair access was through the back of the building, explained Executive Director Amber Jo Manuel.

The front of the building will be much more open to provide a better flow, Manuel said. The ceiling will be raised in the lobby to give it a more airy feel.

“It will be larger, longer, lighter,” Manuel said.

The new 22-foot bar will be able to serve beers on tap from local breweries, as well as kombucha. It also will have a walk-in cooler.

“It’s more sustainable,” Manuel said. “It will change how we do our bar business. It’s so much better for the environment. And no more ice runs!”

The gallery wall space is not going away, she promises. In fact, she said, it will be expanded and improved, with plywood backing on the walls so that all types of art can be hung.

The new theater will be rotated and expanded, with doors on either side leading into the space that now will seat 492, half in retractable seating and half on the floor. The seating is flexible so that cabarets or banquets are possibilities, and a standing-only concert could fit 770. The stage itself will be bigger, with optional stage extensions so the center can support larger acts.

Construction began in September on the $4.3 million project, and with about $2 million raised so far, Manuel has been busy working to secure donors.

Fundraising opportunities include having your name incorporated into a mural for $500, name a seat for $1,000 or buy a plaque in the main lobby for $10,000.

“There tends to be a lull in membership during construction,” Manuel said, hyping three-year memberships as part of the Next Stage Crew. “That way, everyone understands they are riding the wave with us, to keep our doors open.”

Those three-year memberships come with some special perks, including early access to tickets, private invitations to opening festivities, special invitations to art receptions and beer, wine and kombucha tastings throughout the opening season, behind the scenes guided tours, and complimentary and discounted merchandise.

When The Center for the Arts reopens, it will “be an exciting time,” Manuel promised. “This will be a hub for all of the arts. This (renovation) will make it all happen.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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