After pummeling Blumenthal Performing Arts prez Tom Gabbard with persistent importunities, I finally got a personal tour of the new Knight Theater – or at least an invite to tag along with some Duke Energy folks while Gabbard showed them around. The place is nearly ready for its public close-up. Gabbard has a temporary AC system installed, waiting until the master system is perched atop the new Mint Museum across 1st Street.
I brought my camera along so I could share my first peeps inside the Knight with devotees of the arts CLog blog. We were able to see meeting rooms, dressing rooms, rehearsal studios, lobby areas, and of course, the new 1200-seat theater. The furthest seat in the new place, Gabbard boasted, is no further from the stage than the front row of the Grand Tier at the Belk.
Climate control, rising from the floor, is quietly state-of-the-art, and the stage offers a tower that is 90-feet high to its ceiling grid. Handicapped accommodations, sound mixing in the hall, and an orchestra pit for 65 are all in the package. Because Charlotte Symphony originally spurned the new venue, Gabbard was able to ax a bandshell from the budget. It can still happen if Symphony survives its current financial turmoil. Acoustics for less massive enterprises are said to be delicious, with a center speaker array and two side stacks already in place.
So the Knight is right – but not always dry. Looking out toward Tryon from the second floor balcony, Gabbard pointed to rows of strategically placed sandbags outside in the entrance plaza. Apparently, the waters of a recent rainstorm invaded the downstairs lobby. There was no visible damage, but we’re counting on Gabbard, architects, and city fathers to devise a more permanent and cosmetically appealing solution to the Knight’s drainage woes by the time it officially opens.
The soft opening of the Knight is scheduled for October 10, when Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers will rock the house. North Carolina Dance Theatre draws the honors for Light the Knight Gala celebration on January 8, 2010.