Bass Concert Hall undergoes $3 million renovations

Lauren Womack

By May, Texas Performing Arts will complete $3 million worth of renovations on Bass Concert Hall, Austin’s largest performing arts venue.

Bob Bursey, executive director of Texas Performing Arts, said the renovations include revamping the lobby, replacing balcony seating and rebuilding sections of the balcony to make them more accessible to wheelchair users and improve views of the stage. Bursey hopes the renovations will help improve safety and the audience experience.

Bursey said when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the concert hall to close in March 2020, it created an opportunity to begin the renovations. Texas Performing Arts privately financed the renovations with funds they had previously set aside and loans, Bursey said.

“For us theater operators, we’ve learned so much during this time about ways to keep folks safe and healthy that are specific to COVID-19, but some things that are generally important to create healthy environments in our building,” Bursey said.

Lobby renovations will include creating more space so people can be spread further apart in the lobby area, Bursey said.

Since the concert hall closed, Texas Performing Arts has adapted to follow COVID-19 guidelines by hosting outdoor concerts, online performances and an exhibit called “The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop,” Bursey said.

“As wrecking as COVID-19 was, it inspired a different kind of arts (but) with restrictions we have not dealt with before,” said Madison Sheridan, the incoming president of Hook ‘em Arts, the student organization for Texas Performing Arts. “I think that we are absolutely going to be carrying these lessons forward in our bodies and minds.”

The renovations will be completed by May to host graduation recognition ceremonies, Bursey said.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that the Bass Concert Hall has been in need of renovations for a while,” said Alicia Amberson, a studio art and art history senior. “The entrance is particularly problematic. … Also, not all seats have good visibility, and especially in crowded graduation ceremonies it can be hard to see and hear what’s going on onstage.”

The newly renovated concert hall’s fall production schedule will be released later this summer, Bursey said. Beginning in December, the hall will host Broadway shows, including “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.”

“We’re really excited to welcome people back to the theater,” Bursey said. “As we go into next fall, certainly, we’re going to have some fantastic performing arts events and are excited to get people back and having that in person, live experience.”

Editor’s Note: Madison Sheridan’s name has been corrected. This story previously referred to her as Madison Hall. The Texan regrets this error.