The Show Must Go On

By Laura Ross

Photo by Alix Mattingly

The community watched in horror on June 13 as a three-alarm fire consumed the roof and some of the interior of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (KCA). As clean up and damage assessment begins, the KCA is scrambling to move shows to other venues and reopen as soon as possible.

What happened?

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but officials believe it was sparked by contracting work on the roof. The fire was contained to the roof, which suffered extensive damage, but many areas of the KCA also had heavy smoke and water damage, including the lobbies, the Bomhard Theater, Whitney Hall, dressing rooms, offices and restrooms. The center’s mechanical and control rooms were also affected, as was the HVAC system and all duct work throughout the center. No one was injured.

When does the cleanup and renovation begin?

Christian Adelberg, senior marketing manager of the KCA, notes that the KCA’s building is owned by the Commonwealth. The Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet is responsible for all remediation, restoration efforts and the schedule for completion. The cabinet is working in coordination with the City of Louisville; the KCA; the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet; and others to work through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. Finance staff, contractors, insurance adjusters and others have been onsite since the fire occurred to make initial assessments. A major restoration project will be required.

“It’s about safety first,” said Adelberg. “Until the inspectors can say with 100 percent certainty that the entire building is safe, we can’t open it. The Commonwealth wants the building open quickly, and everyone is working as hard and as fast as they can to make that happen.”

Staff and contractors are working on removing damaged drywall so that more in-depth inspections can be done. The Finance Cabinet’s goal is to put together a tentative timeline for the future by June 29.

How can the community help?

“The best recourse is to continue purchasing tickets to the shows you’re interested in,” said Adelberg. “The building may be closed right now, but the business of the center is ongoing. We are pressing forward.” Adelberg added that if a show needs to be moved, postponed or canceled, all ticket buyers will be notified quickly and refunds issued as needed.

“Until we have a timeline in place, we don’t want to shut down the business,” he continued. “We are doing everything we can to make sure our schedule continues.”

As a non-profit, the center relies on memberships and donations. “Membership at any level helps us sustain our long-term goals, mission and the work the center does outside of our halls,” Adelberg said. “Our statewide arts outreach in programs like the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, the teacher academies and other efforts bring arts to the entire state of Kentucky.”

How are the staff members holding up?

“Hundreds of businesses, friends and corporations have offered everything from asking, ‘Do you need water, do you need a place with air conditioning, do you need offsite offices, do you need a hug?’” said Adelberg. “This is a tough time, but the center has come through calamities before and bounced back better than ever.”

Adelberg adds that their thank-you list is growing. “Louisville’s emergency services are incredible. From the moment they arrived on scene, in 100-plus degree heat, to remaining through the night and beyond was amazing. We are also thankful for the support from the Mayor’s Office and Metro Government; the Commonwealth; the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet; our incredible staff; and the community. We are deeply touched by the support we’ve seen.”

He added, “The outpouring of support, in both kind words and actions, has been overwhelming. As Mayor Fischer once said, the KCA is the community’s living room. It’s a place where everyone can gather and enjoy a wonderful show, event or just come together to meet. These are the challenging times that show a community’s mettle and it’s very apparent that we are all stronger together. When disaster strikes, we pick ourselves up and get back to work.”

What comes next?

Once initial assessments are complete, the Finance Cabinet and KCA will update the community on renovation plans. In the meantime, the show must go on. KCA staff members are working to move as many productions as possible to alternate venues. Some shows, such as the Louisville Orchestra’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” concert, may be rescheduled. The PNC Broadway in Louisville’s production of “Waitress” was canceled and will not be rescheduled.

For questions or information regarding tickets and shows, contact The Kentucky Center Box Office at 502.584.7777 or visit VT

Note: The Voice-Tribune is proud to donate 10 percent of all advertising revenue for the upcoming Aug. 1 Arts issue to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.